Category - travel

Guess Where?

So, I spent a few days up in Portland, Oregon over this past weekend.  It was a bit of a “guerrilla strike” – one day of travel, three days there, another day of travel back to Nashville.

The weather was mostly… like this.  Which, according to rumor and/or legend, is fairly typical of Portland (and the Pacific Northwest in general) for most of the fall, winter, and spring.

Those of you familiar with my… ummm… unique domestic situation will know why the visit – which is about as much as I’ll say about it here.

Photo Challenge #2:
“Pendennis from St. Mawes”

For Day 2 of Ken Gray‘s Facebook 7-Day Photo Challenge, we’re reaching once more into the photo-wayback-machine.  This is one of the very first manifestations of my fascination (preoccupation?  obsession?) with medieval castles and abbeys

I made my first trip to the United Kingdom with my then-future-ex-wife Georja Skinner for five memorable weeks in the spring of 1976.  The tour covered almost the entire UK.

We started with a couple of days on the Isle of Sark in the  – a tiny refuged in the in the English Channel most notable for the nearly complete  absence of motorized vehicles.  Once in England proper we went as far west as Cornwall, north through the Cotswolds, Wales and the Lake District, and made it as far north as Edinburgh in Scotland.  Unfortunately our car was broken into outside of Edinburgh, and – in a demonstration of what international travel newbies we were – our passports were stolen.  We had to beat a hasty retreat back to the U.S. Embassy in London to secure temporary passports so that we could eventually fly home.

But I digress: the photo here was taken across the bay from the town of Falmouth on the south coast of Cornwall.

One either side of the mouth of Falmouth Bay are two fortresses built during the reign of Henry VIII to defend the English coast from invasion by the Spanish Armada. On the west side of the bay is Pendennis Castle; we spent a bit of time on the east side of the channel, at a nearly identical installation called St. Mawes Castle. While we were at St. Mawes, a spring storm rolled over the coast, and I captured the layers of clouds as they rolled past Pendennis with my Nikon F2, a 300mm lens and (I think) Ektachrome 400 film.

I have a print of this shot on the wall in my “library” (it’s just a small room with bookshelves, but I like the pretense of calling it “the Library”).  The print was made and framed back in 1976 – it’s the oldest photo of mine presently on display in the house.  I had it and several other photos from the era (like yesterday’s “Ground Strike“) scanned a few years back.  They’re all digital, now….

The image that appears at the top of this post has been “landscape” aspected to fit the way “featured images” are displayed in these posts.  Here’s the full “portrait”  aspected image, which shows many more layers in the clouds and sky:


Addicted to #TheStupid

The photo atop this post is not offered as one of my Great Works of Art.

It’s just a moment that struck me while Ann and I were wandering around downtown Portland, Oregon on Monday.

The “pose” you see here is hardly unique to Portland, so this is certainly no commentary on the common preoccupation on staring at tiny screens.  You see that in Portland, you see that in Nashville, you see it everywhere: people staring at tiny screens.

But in this particular moment, I was struck by this thought:  We live now in an era when we have all of the recorded knowledge of mankind literally at our eyeballs and finger tips.  There are no unanswered questions.   We live in an invisible digital ocean of information, and we spend a good deal of our lives retrieving that information.

So how come we wind up with somebody like Donald Trump within striking distance of the presidency?

Enquiring minds want to know.  I wonder if I can Google that…

Container Ship and Rainbow

It was mostly cloudy here in the Pacific Northwest yesterday. We spent much of the day just driving around, exploring.

After an early supper by the fire pit at Doc’s Seaside Grill, we came back to our parapet here on Morgan Hill, overlooking Puget Sound and Whidby Island in the distance.

While we were sitting here absorbed in our screens, the clouds lifted in the final minutes before sunset; suddenly everything around us was filled with golden hues.

We jumped up and looked out the windows and lo-and-behold, a faint rainbow formed a full arch… we could see both ends across the Sound.

And then a container ship passed through one end of the rainbow.  There must be a lot of gold in those containers…

Reporting in from the Pacific Northwest

Dear Readers,

I’m a little behind the 8-ball this week.

Ann and I have been traveling for the past week… we’ve come up to Portland, Oregon to visit her sons and our granddaughter  who will turn one-year-old this coming weekend.  So there has not been a lot of time to write and comment despite all the weird and disturbing shit that’s been going on in the world in the past few days.

For the past few days, we’ve been on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, staying in a charming turreted rooftop AirBnB in the seaside “Victorian and Arts Community” of Port Townsend.

Yesterday we rode a ferry across a channel from Port Angeles, WA to Victoria, BC.  It seemed oddly appropriate to be exploring a foreign country on the night that Donald Trump seems to have secured the Republican nomination and will apparently spend the next 6 months a mere one bracket away from the Oval office.  Of that pending calamity I had this to say on Facebook last night:

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 6.57.14 AM

…and I will perhaps have more to say in the future but until then I encourage My Faithful to read this assessment of the current climate by Andrew Sullivan, who has finally emerged from a long period of solitude to finally shed some light:

And so, as I chitchatted over cocktails at a Washington office Christmas party in December, and saw, looming above our heads, the pulsating, angry televised face of Donald Trump on Fox News, I couldn’t help but feel a little nausea permeate my stomach.

What is most compelling (for me) about Andrew’s analysis is that he recognizes the profound role that our shifting media environment has had on a once-familiar political process:

What the 21st century added to this picture, it’s now blindingly obvious, was media democracy — in a truly revolutionary form. If late-stage political democracy has taken two centuries to ripen, the media equivalent took around two decades, swiftly erasing almost any elite moderation or control of our democratic discourse…

…as Facebook and Twitter took hold, everyone became a kind of blogger. In ways no 20th-century journalist would have believed, we all now have our own virtual newspapers on our Facebook newsfeeds and Twitter timelines — picking stories from countless sources and creating a peer-to-peer media almost completely free of editing or interference by elites. This was bound to make politics more fluid….

The web was also uniquely capable of absorbing other forms of media, conflating genres and categories in ways never seen before. The distinction between politics and entertainment became fuzzier; election coverage became even more modeled on sportscasting; your Pornhub jostled right next to your mother’s Facebook page….

In the end, all these categories were reduced to one thing: traffic, measured far more accurately than any other medium had ever done before.

And what mainly fuels this is precisely what the Founders feared about democratic culture: feeling, emotion, and narcissism, rather than reason, empiricism, and public-spiritedness.

That’s more than enough excerpting to demonstrate what I have contended all along, that this is a “McLuhanist” election cycle.  The medium IS the message, and we are seeing a process that has been transformed by the way that information is gathered and disseminated through the electorate.  Sullivan brilliantly demonstrates the opportunity this unique slice of time has presented for just the right kind of whackadoodle demagogue.

Anyway, I’m traveling and haven’t had a lot of actual keyboard time during the expedition.

The photo at the top of this post, which I made yesterday, is from the interior of this magnificent edifice, the British Columbia Parliament Building in Victoria:

It's called "The Legislatures Building" and it is where the British Columbia Parliament conducts its business.

It’s called “The Legislatures Building” and it is where the British Columbia Parliament conducts its business.

We were on the ground floor, looking up through three-stories at the inside of the rotunda and dome above. There was a display in the very center of the space below the rotunda, so I couldn’t get in the center and look up; I had to hold the camera in my outstretched hand and aim it up, and could only see what I was doing from the flipped-out LCD screen. Ordinarily I would have been tempted to shoot a perfectly symmetrical image, but I actually like the way this turned out better than that perspective probably would have.

Anyway, that’s the news from the Pacific Northwest.  Tomorrow we go back to Portland, this weekend we celebrate Juniper’s first birthday, and we’ll be back in Tennessee late Tuesday night.

Thanks for tuning in.

Today in #GameOfThrones #GoT
Middleham Castle – Yorkshire, England

Before I went to the UK in the fall of 2014, I spent a little time learning how to make 360º panoramic photos (via Skype) from a guy in Australia, John Warkentin.  I haven’t done much with the files since, they’ve just been sitting on my hard drive and I’ve just about completely forgotten how the software that stitches these puppies together works (it’s kinda complex…).


Inside a ruined tower of Middleham Castle

But this morning as I was randomly, mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, I found a page dedicated to the English Wars of the Roses and Medieval Buildings. That got me to looking through some of the files I haven’t looked at for almost two years.  First I found an image from the interior of one of the ruined towers of Middleham Castle, a large fortress in Yorkshire, England that was one of the redoubts of the Yorkist faction during the Wars of the Roses, that 30-some-year civil war when the Yorks fought it out with the Lancasters for the Throne of England.

Then I went looking to see what else I have, and found all the files I shot for those panoramas (with a special tripod head that rotates the camera round the front element of the lens). Then I dug into the software that generates the panoramas to see if I could remember how to make it work.

The final result is the image at the top of this post, taken within the main courtyard of Middleham Castle.  The statue on the left side is of Richard III – he of “My kingdom for a horse” fame – who resided here for most of his life before usurping the crown from his nephew Edward V.

Edward V and his brother (also a Richard) were confined to the Tower of London, and once Richard ascended the throne, the boys – aged 12 and 9 – were never heard from or seen again, becoming instead the legend of “The Princes in the Tower.”

It was not too much longer before Richard III himself was dispatched in the Battle of Bosworth in August, 1485 – ending more than 350 years of the Plantagenet dynasty in England.  Bosworth is often cited as marking the end of the ‘medieval’ period of English history. Richard  and the Yorks were vanquished by Henry Tudor, who styled himself Henry VII and began the Tudor dynasty that ended a little over 100 years later with the demise of Elizabeth I.

Any resemblance between the stories of The Wars of the Roses and “Game of Thrones” is strictly intentional.  George R. R. Martin has even said as much