Shallow Thoughts : tags : art

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing, Science, and Nature.

Fri, 06 Jun 2014

Santa Fe Highway Art, and the Digestive Deer

Santa Fe is a city that prides itself on its art. There are art galleries everywhere, glossy magazines scattered around town pointing visitors to the various art galleries and museums.

Why, then, is Santa Fe county public art so bad?

[awful Santa Fe art with eagle, jaguar and angels] Like this mural near the courthouse. It has it all! It combines motifs of crucifixions, Indian dancing, Hermaphroditism, eagles, jaguars, astronomy, menorahs (or are they power pylons?), an angel, armed and armored, attempting to stab an unarmed angel, and a peace dove smashing its head into a baseball. All in one little mural!

But it's really the highway art north of Santa Fe that I wanted to talk about today.

[roadrunner highway art] [horned toad highway art] [rattlesnake highway art] Some of it isn't totally awful. The roadrunner and the horned toad are actually kind of cute, and the rattlesnake isn't too bad.

[rooster highway art] [turkey highway art] On the other hand, the rooster and turkey are pretty bad ...

[rabbit highway art] and the rabbit is beyond belief.

As you get farther away from Santa Fe, you get whole overpasses decorated with names and symbols:
[Posuwaegeh and happy dancing shuriken]

[Happy dancing shuriken] I think of this one near Pojoaque as the "happy dancing shuriken" -- it looks more like a Japanese throwing star, a shuriken, than anything else, though no doubt it has some deeper meaning to the Pojoaque pueblo people.

But my favorite is the overpass near Cuyamungue.

[K'uuyemugeh and digestive deer]

See those deer in the upper right and left corners?

[Cuyamungue digestive deer highway art] Here it is in close-up. We've taken to calling it "the digestive deer".

I can't figure out what this is supposed to tell us about a deer's alimentary tract. Food goes in ... and then we don't want to dwell on what happens after that? Is there a lot of foliage near Cuyamungue that's particularly enticing to deer? A "land of plenty", at least for deer? Do they then go somewhere else to relieve themselves?

I don't know what it means. But as we drive past the Cuyamungue digestive deer on the way to Santa Fe ... it's hard to take the city's airs of being a great center of art and culture entirely seriously.

Tags: ,
[ 12:40 Jun 06, 2014    More humor | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Wed, 03 Jul 2013

Mad Moon Models

[This a slight revision of my monthly "Shallow Sky" column in the SJAA Ephemeris newsletter. Looks like the Ephemeris no longer has an online HTML version, just the PDF of the whole newsletter, so I may start reposting my Ephemeris columns here more often.]

[Plate IX: The Lunar Apennines, Archemedes &c.] Last month I stumbled upon a loony moon book I hadn't seen before, one that deserves consideration by all lunar observers.

The book is The Moon: Considered as a Planet, a World, and a Satellite by James Nasmyth, C.E. and James Carpenter, F.R.A.S. It's subtitled "with twenty-six illustrative plates of lunar objects, phenomena, and scenery; numerous woodcuts &c." It was written in 1885.

Astronomers may recognize the name Nasmyth: his name is attached to a modified Cassegrain focus design used in a lot of big observatory telescopes. Astronomy was just a hobby for him, though; he was primarily a mechanical engineer. His coauthor, James Carpenter, was an astronomer at the Royal Greenwich Observatory.

The most interesting thing about their book is the plates illustrating lunar features. In 1885, photography wasn't far enough along to get good close-up photos of the moon through a telescope. But Nasmyth and Carpenter wanted to show something beyond sketches. So they built highly detailed models of some of the most interesting areas of the moon, complete with all their mountains, craters and rilles, then photographed them under the right lighting conditions for interesting shadows similar to what you'd see when that area was on the terminator.

[David North explaining the moon] I loved the idea, since I'd worked on a similar but much less ambitious project myself. Over a decade ago, before we were married, Dave North got the idea to make a 3-D model of the full moon that he could use for the SJAA astronomy class. I got drafted to help. We started by cutting a 3-foot disk of wood, on which we drew a carefully measured grid corresponding to the sections in Rukl's Atlas of the Moon. Then, section by section, we drew in the major features we wanted to incorporate. Once the drawing was done, we mixed up some spackle -- some light, and some with a little black paint in it for the mare areas -- and started building up relief on top of the features we'd sketched. The project was a lot of fun, and we use the moon model when giving talks (otherwise it hangs on the living room wall).

Nasmyth and Carpenter's models cover only small sections of the moon -- Copernicus, Plato, the Apennines -- but in amazing detail. Looking at their photos really is like looking at the moon at high magnification on a night of great seeing.

So I had to get the book. Amazon has two versions, a paperback and a hardcover. I opted for the paperback, which turns out to be scanned from a library book (there's even a scan of the pocket where the book's index card goes). Some of the scanning is good, but some of the plates come out all black. Not very satisfying.

But once I realized that an 1885 book was old enough to be public domain, I checked the web. I found two versions: one at Archive.org and one on Google Books. They're scans from two different libraries; the Archive.org scan is better, but the epub version I downloaded for my ebook reader has some garbled text and a few key plates, like Clavius, missing. The Google version is a much worse scan and I couldn't figure out if they had an epub version. I suspect the hardcover on Amazon is likely a scan from yet a fourth library.

At the risk of sounding like some crusty old Linux-head, wouldn't it be nice if these groups could cooperate on making one GOOD version rather than a bunch of bad ones?

I also discovered that the San Jose library has a copy. A REAL copy, not a scan. It gave me a nice excuse to take the glass elevator up to the 8th floor and take in the view of San Jose. And once I got it, I scanned all the moon sculpture plates myself. Sadly, like the Archive.org ebook, the San Jose copy is missing Copernicus. I wonder if vandals are cutting that page out of library copies? That makes me wince even to think of it, but I know such things happen.

Whichever version you prefer, I'd recommend that lunies get hold of a copy. It's a great introduction to planetary science, with very readable discussions of how you measure things like the distance and size of the moon. It's an even better introduction to lunar observing: if you merely go through all of their descriptions of interesting lunar areas and try to observe the features they mention, you'll have a great start on a lunar observing program that'll keep you busy for months. For experienced observers, it might give you a new appreciation of some lunar regions you thought you already knew well. Not at super-fine levels of detail -- no Alpine Valley rille -- but a lot of good discussion of each area.

[Plate XVIII: Aristarchus & Herodotus ] Other parts of the book are interesting only from a historical perspective. The physical nature of lunar features wasn't a settled issue in 1885, but Nasmyth and Carpenter feel confident that all of the major features can be explained as volcanism. Lunar craters are the calderas of enormous volcanoes; mountain ranges are volcanic too, built up from long cracks in the moon's crust, like the Cascades range in the Pacific Northwest.

There's a whole chapter on "Cracks and Radiating Streaks", including a wonderful plate of a glass ball with cracks, caused by deformation, radiating from a single point. They actually did the experiment: they filled a glass globe with water and sealed it, then "plunged it into a warm bath". The cracks that resulted really do look a bit like Tycho's rays (if you don't look TOO closely: lunar rays actually line up with the edges of the crater, not the center).

It's fun to read all the arguments that are plausible, well reasoned -- and dead wrong. The idea that craters are caused by meteorite impacts apparently hadn't even been suggested at the time.

Anyway, I enjoyed the book and would definitely recommend it. The plates and observing advice can hold their own against any modern observing book, and the rest ... is a fun historical note.

Here are some places to get it:
Amazon:

Online:

Or, try your local public library -- they might have a real copy!

Tags: , , , ,
[ 16:12 Jul 03, 2013    More science/astro | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Thu, 13 Dec 2012

Miss American Stuck-in-Green-Cross

[Mis American Green Cross]

This is one of the creepiest statues I've seen in a park. A bronze lady has her feet embedded in a green cross, with cut tree stumps below her.

On the pedestal below her, it says:

HELP SAVE OUR TREES

THE FOREST IS THE MOTHER OF THE RIVERS

A small plaque below that says:

DEDICATED TO
THE AMERICAN GREEN CROSS
BY
GLENDALE CHAPTER No 1
MCMXXVIII

On the wide of the pedestal, it says:

CONSERVE THE FORESTS
PREVENT EROSION —
RENEW SOIL FERTILITY
PERPETUATE THE LUMBER SUPPLY

The title of the work, as given on an even smaller plaque on the gruond in front of the statue, is "Miss American Green Cross". Apparently it was created in 1928 by sculptor Frederick Willard Proctor, for an environmental group (although I don't usually think of "the lumber supply" being a prime concern of environmental groups).

[Miss American Green Cross, side view] The statue was first erected at Glendale High School in 1928. But she suffered some damage and abuse over the next few years, including being hit by a car. And then at some point in the early 1930s she disappeared. No one knew what had happened to her.

She wasn't officially rediscovered until 1954, when some hikers reported seeing it near the old Brand family cemetery, now part of Brand Park. She stood there for another three and a half decades, where she continued to be vandalized, acquiring scratches as well as grafiti, and eventually losing both arms.

Eventually, in 1990, after some debate over materials and methods, the city of Glendale restored the statue and moved down the trail to itsmis current location near Brand Library at the foot of the Brand Park hiking trails.

I've chuckled at this statue for years, whenever I visit Glendale and hike Brand Park. I still find her trapped legs, crucifixion motif, and pile of razed stumps creepy. But I must say that her history is a lot more interesting than I had imagined.

Tags: ,
[ 21:04 Dec 13, 2012    More humor | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Miss American Stuck-in-Green-Cross

[Mis American Green Cross]

This is one of the creepiest statues I've seen in a park. A bronze lady has her feet embedded in a green cross, with cut tree stumps below her.

On the pedestal below her, it says:

HELP SAVE OUR TREES

THE FOREST IS THE MOTHER OF THE RIVERS

A small plaque below that says:

DEDICATED TO
THE AMERICAN GREEN CROSS
BY
GLENDALE CHAPTER No 1
MCMXXVIII

On the wide of the pedestal, it says:

CONSERVE THE FORESTS
PREVENT EROSION —
RENEW SOIL FERTILITY
PERPETUATE THE LUMBER SUPPLY

The title of the work, as given on an even smaller plaque on the gruond in front of the statue, is "Miss American Green Cross". Apparently it was created in 1928 by sculptor Frederick Willard Proctor, for an environmental group (although I don't usually think of "the lumber supply" being a prime concern of environmental groups).

[Miss American Green Cross, side view] The statue was first erected at Glendale High School in 1928. But she suffered some damage and abuse over the next few years, including being hit by a car. And then at some point in the early 1930s she disappeared. No one knew what had happened to her.

She wasn't officially rediscovered until 1954, when some hikers reported seeing it near the old Brand family cemetery, now part of Brand Park. She stood there for another three and a half decades, where she continued to be vandalized, acquiring scratches as well as grafiti, and eventually losing both arms.

Eventually, in 1990, after some debate over materials and methods, the city of Glendale restored the statue and moved down the trail to her current location near Brand Library at the foot of the Brand Park hiking trails.

I've chuckled at this statue for years, whenever I visit Glendale and hike Brand Park. I still find her trapped legs, crucifixion motif, and pile of shorn stumps creepy. But I must say that her history is a lot more interesting than I had imagined.

Tags: ,
[ 20:54 Dec 13, 2012    More humor | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Miss American Stuck-in-Green-Cross

[Mis American Green Cross]

This is one of the creepiest statues I've seen in a park. A bronze lady has her feet embedded in a green cross, with cut tree stumps below her.

On the pedestal below her, it says:

HELP SAVE OUR TREES

THE FOREST IS THE MOTHER OF THE RIVERS

A small plaque below that says:

DEDICATED TO
THE AMERICAN GREEN CROSS
BY
GLENDALE CHAPTER No 1
MCMXXVIII

On the wide of the pedestal, it says:

CONSERVE THE FORESTS
PREVENT EROSION —
RENEW SOIL FERTILITY
PERPETUATE THE LUMBER SUPPLY

The title of the work, as given on an even smaller plaque on the gruond in front of the statue, is "Miss American Green Cross". Apparently it was created in 1928 by sculptor Frederick Willard Proctor, for an environmental group (although I don't usually think of "the lumber supply" being a prime concern of environmental groups).

[Miss American Green Cross, side view] It was first erected at Glendale High School in 1928. But it suffered some damage and abuse over the next few years, including being hit by a car, and then at some point in the early 1930s it disappeared. No one knew what had happened to it.

It wasn't officially rediscovered until 1954, when some hikers reported seeing it near the old Brand family cemetery, now part of Brand Park. It stood there for another three and a half decades, where it continued to be vandalized, acquiring scratches as well as grafiti, and eventually losing both arms.

Eventually, in 1990, after some debate over materials and methods, the city of Glendale restored the statue and moved down the trail to its current location near Brand Library at the foot of the Brand Park hiking trails.

I've chuckled at this statue for years, whenever I visit Glendale and hike Brand Park. I still find her trapped legs, crucifixion motif, and pile of shorn stumps creepy. But I must say that her history is a lot more interesting than I had imagined.

Tags: ,
[ 20:49 Dec 13, 2012    More humor | permalink to this entry | comments ]

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