Friday, July 31, 2015


Years ago I was perusing the shelves and bins at Appalachian Rock Shop when I came across an oddity.  There was a chunk of a clear-ish, somewhat milky mineral that when placed over top of something, particularly noticeable on printed words, seemed to bring the image to the surface of the crystal.  The owner told me that it was ulexite, a natural fiber optic.  I was intrigued and a bit giddy, so I bought a couple of pieces and took them home to impress my friends.  Of course my friends weren't impressed ("It's just a rock."), but I was, and still am.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Re-Imagined American Beauty

American Beauty Barbie, Pittsburgh, 2015

I wanted to pay homage to the movie American Beauty but didn't quite think that the roses and bed of rose petals was, how shall I say...quite right for representation of female genitalia, or even passion, despite what red roses are supposed to represent.  No, I contend that lilies are much better suited to be strewn over a nude female form.  Just behold the voluptuous nature of Georgia O'Keeffe's masterful handiwork with the lily as proof.
I used dried Purple Prince Orienpet lilies that I plucked from a clutch of them growing in my mother-in-law's yard.  A perfect fit.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Digital Miasma

Milkweed With Butterflies Miasma, 2015

Sometimes when I have a shot that is really out of focus, I'll tinker with it, manipulating it digitally before I decide whether to keep it or not.  I get rid of a lot of shots on my hard drive.  Not because I don't have enough memory to preserve them, but because I don't want to have to look at them any longer. Be gone, you sad affront to the eye!
I pushed this failed image to both its limits and mine.  Except for that small white mass right of center, I like the pic, to me it brings to mind Van Gogh.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Lady Is A Frog

Frog in Bikini, Candle $5, Pittsburgh, 2015

Perhaps it takes a lipsticked, bikini clad bullfrog rendered in wax for one to fully appreciate the challenges facing an artist bent on being original.  Or, simply, one more oddly sexual anthropomorphic creation that begs the question:  Why? 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Dried Herbs

Dried Heal-All, Prunella  vulgaris, Pittsburgh, 2015

Perhaps because of the cooler temps than normal, and all of the rain, we've got a bumper crop of Heal-All this year.  So far I've got two 1-quart jars stuffed with the dried herb, and am working on a smaller jar just to have out in the kitchen.  Though Heal-All is kind of touted as a panacea, I tend to use it as a preventative tea.  We started off drinking a cup of it everyday to keep colds at bay, which it did, all winter long.  Now I drink it everyday because I prefer it to green tea.
Now is prime time for collecting Heal-All.  Get out there and keep yourself healthy!

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Relunctant Camper

                         Camping, 1921

I'm going through a bunch of my maternal grandfather's old photographs and was surprised to find that there were pictures of him camping.  While I know that my great-grandfather was an enthusiastic outdoorsman, I also knew that my grandfather did not enjoy outdoor pursuits.  And he is, at age 13, probably dragged along on an excursion, probably solidifying his resolve.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

He's Lost His Head

              Death Scene of Count Orlok, Nosferatu, 1922

Well, well, well.  It appears that someone, or someones, has stolen the skull of the long dead director F.W. Murnau, from his iron re-enforced coffin in Germany.  Murnau is famous for making the uber creepy 1922 film, "Nosferatu", a movie that remains watchable, if not wholly enjoyable, to this day.  Even more enjoyable and relevant is the 2000 meta film, "Shadow of The Vampire" based loosely (oh so very loosely) on the making of "Nosferatu".  Willem DaFoe is deliciously evil as a *real* Count Orlok, while John Malkovich takes on the role of the single-minded Murnau, who is fully aware of the monster that his leading man is, even while the bodies on set begin to mount.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Go Set A Watchman

I did not specifically want to read this book, but my wife pre-ordered it and all of the sudden, voila! it was here.  I opened it and so began my journey of horror and disbelief.
Like Maureen Corrigan, I don't believe that this book is a prequel to "To Kill A Mockingbird".  No, instead I believe that it was a failed sequel, deemed unpublishable by her editors back in the day.  Now of course, the money grab is too tempting to not toss an unedited hodge podge of racist apologist tripe, with a huge dollop of supposed state's rights on top, into the summer reading mix.  Oh happy day!
Atticus Finch, inspirational and beloved character, a man of  character, from "To Kill A Mockingbird" here is not just a pale shadow of his former self, he no longer behaves like himself.  Did his recent stroke cause brain damage*?  That might explain why now he no longer exhibits any of the qualities that made him a champion for those wronged or unjustly persecuted.  Simply, he is no longer a man of reason.  He has become a most unreasonable man, despite all of his arguments to the contrary.  Following the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. The Board of Education striking down segregation, apparently even the wisest of men lost their heads and took up the charge of protecting their way of life.
If you are highly offended by liberal use of the n-word, gird your loins because the last half of the book is doused in it.  Scout, or Jean Louise as she's most often referred to here, is mortified by what she finds around her on a trip home from New York City, but after her uncle backhands her and knocks her nearly unconscious, she comes around to their way of thinking...kind of.  I cannot tell you how appalled I was by this turn of events.  Blatant violence employed when someone doesn't get on board with your racism.  Nice.
Since my wife teaches "To Kill A Mockingbird" to her 9th grade English students, she pretty much has to read this book, but I should've left it on the table.  I recommend that you do just that.
*  It occurs to me that he didn't have a stroke, so I've got nothin'.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Barbie Furiosa - Scorched Earth

Barbie Furiosa, Scorched Earth, Zelienople, PA 2015

On the fourth of July, with the pyrotechnic aid of my brother and my sister-in-law's brother-in-law, we nearly burned up Barbie Furiosa and her converted garbage truck/attack vehicle.  The truck did briefly catch fire, but someone kindly put out the flames with a quick sluice of beer.
Barbie Furiosa is fairly charred now, and I haven't decided what to with her next.
Here's a clearer photo of her:

Sunday, July 12, 2015

28 Days Later

     Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 14, 2015
     Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 12, 2015

Here we have the weather page from today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper (bottom image), and the weather page from 28 days ago from the same print source (top image).  In that four week span the greater Pittsburgh area went from being 1.87 inches of precipitation short of 'normal' for this time of year, to 4.02 above 'normal'.  Since I excel at basic math, that's a rainfall swing of 5.89 inches over the course of precisely 28 days.  Not that we haven't gotten lots of rain over a short period of time before, it's just usually a major storm system, or the remnants of a major storm system.  This, apparently, seems to be a case of storm fronts forming over and over again in the midwest and southeast.  With cooler than normal temps, this summer has yet to feel much like summer.  Still, this is better than sweltering heat and lingering drought, like some parts of the country are enduring.

Monday, July 6, 2015

White Swamp Milkweed And Great Spangled Fritillary

White Swamp Milkweed, Ascleplia perennis, Pittsburgh, 2015

This is the last photo of Great Spangled Fritillaries feeding atop milkweeds that I'm going to post.  I just find it fascinating that I came upon such a large flutter of the butterflies, and that within a small area there were three different types of milkweed growing.  It's not practical to allow milkweed to take over an area, it is poisonous to everything but certain species of butterflies, but to allow a few plants, well spaced out, even in a somewhat small area, does allow these butterflies to flourish.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Great Spangled Fritillary Atop Butterfly Weed

Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa, Pittsburgh, 2015

Other than escaped day lilies, orange flowers are fairly uncommon in the wild in western Pennsylvania,  which makes the butterfly weed, a member of the milkweed family, all the more noticeable.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Great Spangled Fritillary

Great Spangled Fritillary, Speyeria cybele, Pittsburgh, 2015

While out in search of more (ever more) heal-all, Prunella vulgaris, I came upon a flutter of butterflies feasting on milkweed nectar.  See, this is why you can't just spray the fuck out of everything just so that you don't have aphids or slugs because you kill everything.  EVERY.  THING.  If you allow areas to simply go wild with native species, then you have an abundance of life.
Anyway, once home I searched the butterflies and discovered that they are Great Spangled Fritillary, a bright coppery colored downy butterfly.
UPDATE:  The butterflies are eating Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata.  The prime difference between common milkweed and swamp milkweed is that the former has a broad leaf, and the latter has a lance shaped leaf.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Loose Strife

Purple Loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria, Blackwater Pond, MA, 2015

Blackwater Pond is a hell scape of blood sucking flies, ticks, and mosquitoes.  It is also a floral paradise, which probably explains the insects, at least partially.
I discovered loosestrife just beginning to bloom along the edges of the pond, and soon the shore line will be covered in it.  While considered invasive because it's not native to North America, it has enough medicinal value, and beauty, to make it a good addition.  Had I known that it makes for a good eye wash, I might have picked and dried some while we were there.