May 2012

Posted by Ellen

This photo was found in a thrift shop; no details are known. Obviously, the event is some kind of shower. My guess: a bridal shower, 1940s.

Posted by Ellen

In the eye of Mexican photographer Dulce Pinzon, the superheroes of the twenty-first century include millions of Mexican immigrants in the United States, including Elizabeth and Enrique Alonso, shown here. These men and women show their super-sized courage and devotion when they leave home and family to live among strangers in a strange land, working ferociously hard at the hardest jobs, all so they can send remittances to their families back home. In 2009, when Pinzon dressed the Alonsos as The Fantastic Twins to reveal their superhero status to everybody around them at their workplace, in a Manhattan restaurant, they were sending home $400 a week to support their family in Puebla, Mexico.

Posted by Ellen

The National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing is an ellipsoidal dome of glass and titanium completely surrounded by an artifical lake; the only entrance to the three theaters inside the dome is via a tunnel underneath the lake.

The architect is Paul Andreu, a Frenchman who spent most of his career designing airports, including those at Dubai, Cairo, Shanghai, Jakarta, Manila, and both airports in Paris.  He's been busy lately working on structures for the Olympics in Kazakhstan.

Posted by Ellen

In 1946, a 23-year-old singer-songwriter named Hiram Williams, somewhat better known to the world as Hank Williams, performed with his band at the opening of a new Chevrolet dealership in Luverne, Alabama. That's him with the fiddle, an instrument he did not perform on very often.

It was either the evening of this show in the Chevy parking lot, or the night of a street dance right around that same time, a fundraising dance sponsored by the Luverne volunteer fire department, when Hank Williams passed out drunk and had to be driven back home to Montgomery, an hour away. The designated driver was Howard Morgan, then captain of the Luverne fire department. "Hank Williams wasn't anything special in those days," Morgan recalled. "Just another cowboy singer."

Chevy dealership openings and volunteer fire department fundraisers were pretty much the only work Williams could get at that time; he'd been fired from his radio show for "habitual drunkenness," and a few months earlier he'd flunked his audition at the Grand Ole Opry. But he'd just made his first recording, which he may or may not have performed in Luverne that day: "Wealth Won't Save Your Soul."

His first record was a dud commercially, but by early 1947, with "Move It On Over," Hank Williams was on fire. During the next six years he wrote and recorded thirty songs, eleven of which made it to number one on the charts. His concerts all over the country drew thousands of adoring fans; never again would he have to perform in a Chevy dealership parking lot in Luverne, Alabama.

His final recording, a few weeks before his death on January 1, 1953, from abuse of alcohol, amphetamines, seconal, chloral hydrate, and morphine: "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive."

On January 4, 1953, the city of Montgomery, Alabama, saw the largest crowd in its history gather to pay final respects to Hank Williams and to listen to Nashville stars performing his greatest hits. The funeral had to be moved to the city convention hall. Luverne volunteer fire chief Howard Morgan and his family were in Montgomery that day, stuck in traffic as the line of funeral-goers stretched for miles.  Our friend Martha Morgan was two years old at the time, sitting in the backseat, too young to understand the occasion but definitely alert to the scene, to the sight of car after car after car after car; Hank Williams's farewell traffic jam became one of Martha's earliest childhood memories.

Posted by Ellen

"Highland Cattle," by Scotch-Irish painter Alfred Grey, 1887.

Posted by Ellen

Here we see The Superconductor, a GPS track created a couple of months ago by Michael J. Wallace as he navigated his bicycle through the streets of Baltimore.

The track is invisible out on the street, of course; it comes to us as a digital recording (via a GPS app on a cellphone) of the exact path taken by Wallace's bicycle during one of his fitness rides. He designs a different track for each ride, planning it out ahead of time on maps and satellite imagery and then following the route as precisely as possible, even if he has to go the wrong way down a one-way street or retrace part of his path without moving over to the other side of the street.

"Once the recording begins," he says on his website, "a continuous pedal-powered line is created." The line becomes visible only when he gets back home after the ride and checks it out on his computer screen. It's a "virtual geoglyph," he says, painted in sweat on the "local canvas" of his neighborhood.

The geoglyph below, of a Baltimore icon, the Francis Scott key, required 6.25 miles of pedaling on a wretchedly muggy night last summer, when the temperature was 87 degrees. Wallace started the ride listening to Clash in his headphones but soon switched to the Rolling Stones. Tracing the key took 53 minutes and 17 seconds, and along the way he noticed four dead rats in the street and one dead bird.

When he got to the upper righthand corner of the key, the street he was following northward dead ended at the bottom of an embankment. "I had to muscle my bike up a steep hill to catch E. Lombard Street back towards downtown," he noted. "Sometimes that's how the road goes."

Posted by Ellen

For an advertising campaign to promote the Berlin Philharmonic, Munich photographers Andreas Mierswa and Markus Kluska somehow shot pictures that appear to be looking out, or trying to look out, from inside musical instruments.