Saturday, September 23, 2017

Hodgepodge 329/365 - Artist (James Prosek)

This evening we went to this year's Wild & Scenic Film Festival, an annual fundraiser for the Ventana Wilderness Alliance, of which I am a proud member and volunteer wilderness ranger. It was eight films, each of them very interesting, I thought. One was about Doug Tompkins, founder of North Face and (this I did not know) the man, together with his second wife, Kris (CEO of Patagonia for twenty years), behind the founding of a good half dozen–plus national parks in Chile and Argentina. He died in a kayaking accident in 2015, but Kris is carrying on their work. Another was about the wild & scenic Rio Grande of northern New Mexico (one of the first eight to be so designated, in 1968) and a Native American family that runs a river rafting outfit there, teaching about the river and about native ways. There was one about a man and his dog, Genghis, going on a 60-mile hike through Utah for the man's 60th birthday (you can watch the whole thing here: it's only nine minutes long). And one about the importance of quiet places that allow you to really listen (here's a teaser). And one about the fight by the Indigenous Gwich'in people of northern Alaska to save the Porcupine Caribou herd and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from Washington's rapacious lust for oil.

The one I perhaps enjoyed most was called Elk River (you can see a trailer here, or read a National Geographic article about it here) about one of the eight herds of elk that winter outside of Yellowstone and every year migrate to their summering grounds, mostly in the park. It's an epic journey, and one that an ecologist and a migration photographer (he sets up motion-sensing cameras in the most desolate places) decided to follow on horseback and on foot and document.

An artist, the Connecticut native James Prosek, was also featured in Elk River (here's a newspaper story about him called "Why Force Nature into Boxes"), and I was struck by his beautiful depictions of the natural world. So I thought I'd share some of his pieces here, because how else are you going to run into him? The second image here was shown being created in the film. Isn't it gorgeous? I'm sorry I wasn't able to find the titles for many, or dates for any. (Click to view large on black.)

The take-home message from this evening's films was a quote from Edward Abbey: "Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul." Every single one of these films involved people who are actively doing something to better understand, appreciate, and help the earth. They are an inspiration.

A mural created for the Smithsonian's
The Singing and the Silence: Birds in Contemporary Art
From a book by Prosek, Bird, Butterfly, Eel
Flying Fox with Gun
He writes books (and really likes fish)
And engages in taxidermy (often from roadkill that
friends bring him): this one is called Flying Fox with Lady's Slippers
Ha ha, just kidding: this is Audubon. But, y'know?
Love his workspace!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Hodgepodge 328/365 - Photography (Pete Turner)

I had not heard of Pete Turner until today, reading a story about him upon his death Monday at age 83. I was struck by the beauty of his color photographs, which he started taking and processing as a 14-year-old, back in 1948. He worked on assignment for magazines, and his photography has also been used on over 80 album covers, mainly jazz. Here are some of his photos (mostly from the article I cite above, where some of them are described in terms of process or inspiration). He did amazingly beautiful work, especially considering most of it was well before the days of Photoshop.

And here are a couple of his album covers:

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Hodgepodge 327/365 - Poetry (W. S. Merwin)

In honor of autumn's arrival, a poem by W. S. Merwin:

A Single Autumn

Ca. 1972
The year my parents died
one that summer one that fall
three months and three days apart
I moved into the house
where they had lived their last years
it had never been theirs
and was still theirs in that way
for a while
echoes in every room
without a sound
all the things that we
had never been able to say
I could not remember
doll collection
in a china cabinet
plates stacked on shelves
lace on drop-leaf tables
a dried branch of bittersweet
before a hall mirror
were all planning to wait
the glass doors of the house
remained closed
the days had turned cold
and out in the tall hickories
the blaze of autumn had begun
on its own
I could do anything

I find this poem (first published in the New Yorker in 2008) wistful and haunting, caught between material reality and vanishings and becomings. I never quite know what to think about Merwin, but I'm always left with a feeling of something between sadness and hope, joy and longing. There's an ineffability that I find at once puzzling (in a zen koan–like way) and very appealing.

Closer to now
And as a special treat, here's a lovely profile from a recent New Yorker (where over 200 of Merwin's poems have appeared since 1955). Former U.S. Poet Laureate, he has lived on the island of Maui for the past thirty-five years, where he and his wife preserve and regenerate native plants and palms. He will turn ninety in another nine days. Here is a Paris Review conversation between Merwin and Edward Hirsch from 1987. So much wisdom and beauty.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hodgepodge 326/365 - Challah

When I was younger, I often made bread. I love to knead the dough, and then watch the magic of it rising. One of my favorite sorts of bread to make was challah, because of the extra magic of braiding it and then watching it grow fat and happy.

So today, in honor of Rosh Hashanah, here's a recipe for challah (from the New York Times); it makes two loaves. Although typically challah is in a long straight loaf, the tradition for Rosh Hashanah is to make it round, to symbolize the circle of life. Maybe tomorrow I'll do some baking.

Here's to year 5778.

Shanah tovah! !שנה טובה

  • 1 ½ packages active dry yeast (1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil, more for greasing bowl
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 8 to 8 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • Poppy or sesame seeds for sprinkling 
1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water.

2.  Whisk oil into yeast, then beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, with remaining sugar and salt. Gradually add flour. When dough holds together, it is ready for kneading. (You can also use a mixer with a dough hook for both mixing and kneading.)

3.  Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Clean out bowl and grease it, then return dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size. Dough may also rise in an oven that has been warmed to 150 degrees then turned off. Punch down dough, cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour.

4. To make a 6-braid challah, either straight or circular, take half the dough and form it into 6 balls. With your hands, roll each ball into a strand about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Place the 6 in a row, parallel to one another. Pinch the tops of the strands together. Move the outside right strand over 2 strands. Then take the second strand from the left and move it to the far right. Take the outside left strand and move it over 2. Move second strand from the right over to the far left. Start over with what is now the outside right strand. Continue this until all strands are braided. For a straight loaf, tuck ends underneath. For a circular loaf, twist into a circle, pinching ends together. Make a second loaf the same way. Place braided loaves on a greased cookie sheet with at least 2 inches in between.

5. Beat remaining egg and brush it on loaves. Either freeze breads or let rise another hour in refrigerator if preferred.

6. To bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees and brush loaves again. (If freezing, remove from freezer 5 hours before baking.) Then dip your index finger in the egg wash, then into poppy or sesame seeds and then onto a mound of bread. Continue until bread is decorated with seeds.

7. Bake in middle of oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden. Cool loaves on a rack.

Some cooking notes:
  • To avoid the bottom burning, place loaves on aluminum foil, shiny side down. And for the last fifteen minutes, cover with a loose sheet of foil, shiny side up. 
  • To make sure the egg wash covers every nook and cranny, take the bread out of the oven after fifteen minutes and reapply the wash to any light areas that have appeared. 
  • A variation: substitute honey for the sugar (though this makes it non-kosher), up the yeast to two tablespoons, and use three yolks + one whole egg instead of the four eggs for the dough.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Hodgepodge 325/365 - Geocaching

Nuttin' to say today, so here's some more photos, quite random, of geocaches we've found (and happened to take pictures of). You can see that some people are crazy into this silly sport. And I do not count myself in that "crazy" category: I have found 2,454 caches over the last ten years (my first find was February 13, 2007), which seems quite reasonable. My biggest caching day was 41 finds; my best month was 144 (in New Zealand a few years ago); my longest streak of caching every day was 32. See? reasonable. There's one fellow, "Alamogul," who has—theoretically (because actually? this number is physically impossible)—found 147,128 caches, over the course of fifteen years. 15 x 365 = 5,475. So that makes 27 caches a day, every day, for fifteen years (and he joined in October 2002, so he hasn't even reached fifteen). See? Impossible! And it puts my meager 2,454 caches in perspective, so far as crazy goes. Right? Right.

Anyway, here's some photos of a few of the more interesting caches we've found. Or their context. Or something associated.

PDH (4.5 terrain difficulty)
Union Square, NYC (it's magnetic, on the hydrant)
Caches can be super tiny—and even smaller
(I am not a big fan of the "nanos"—more on which below)
I love ammo cans, which is how the sport started out,
but you don't find them so much anymore
Sometimes caches are cleverly disguised
Sometimes the cat finds it (okay, not really; but she helped!)
COs (cache owners) often go to great lengths to "camo" their hides
This was an ammo can in a bus shelter on the Shetland Islands
(it is—last found 8/26!—under the bench that my friend is sitting on)
This is part of a series, Peace Love Happiness,
with all of the containers in different languages
X marks the spot
POP! goes the weasel!
(sometimes geocaching can be terrifying)
At my sister-in-law's home place in Norway:
yep, that's David signing the log
A twisty find
A puzzling clue
A "travelbug" (not Pooh—don't know how
the TB ended up with Pooh . . . and sadly,
I was the last person to drop this bug in a cache
. . . I hope whoever picked this up enjoyed it)
The "lock" is the cache
My first attempt at owning a cache,
on the island of Kauai: but this one got to be
too problematic, so I archived it.
It was a beautiful spot, though!
A friend of ours does some pretty interesting electronic caches.
Do pigs fly?
The CO here has become a good friend of ours.
He is a master puzzle-maker. (This one was based on SETI.)
A cache in West Virginia.
This one, called Nano Training 101 (there's also a 201 and a 301),
had an elaborate description:

Do you hate nanos? I hate them too, but just like puzzles,
there are so many of them, you have to find them.
Well, if you would like a new outlook on finding nanos, read on!

I have painstakingly developed a special program that will
improve your desire to hunt for and improve your success rate
at finding nanos. I am even offering a money back guarantee.
If you have never been properly trained in finding nanos,
then this course is just what you need. The course consists
of 3 training classes (caches) plus a bonus for
those that just can't get enough nano training. Just like
any class, we must lay the ground rules first.

- All the nanos have magnetics that are used to hold them to another metal object
- All the nanos are black in color
- All the nanos have a log sheet rolled up inside of them
(Don't you hate rolling it back up?)
- All the nanos have no pencil or pen, so bring your own
- All the nanos . . . that is enough rules, just take the class!

[Me again:] The best part of this nano was: it wasn't a nano!
It was huge! Totally cracked us up!
That box is host to a geocache.
David's butt
David victorious!
A bookstore cache, in Florence, Oregon
Ole One Eye, whom I dropped Down the Rabbit Hole in NYC,
June 2007

Dogs of Dow: a puzzle cache involving stock data
and prime numbers, with a Dow piggy at the end of the trail
A travelbug launched by a child: it wanted to be on water
We liberated Minnie from PDH! And so we come full circle.