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Fri May 01, 2015 at 05:03 PM PDT

A Picture a Day: April in Photos

by Eddie C

New Month, new photos but it's the same deal as the last two. Below are thirty photos, one from each day in April. It's a retirement activity for me. The object being to get out there and take one decent photo each day.

I guess I'm into red this month because my favorite three from April are On the Streets of New York, Wild and Precious Life and Gumshoe Art.

Please enjoy the show and click on any that you might want a better look at.

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Tue Mar 31, 2015 at 03:07 PM PDT

A Month of Photos: March

by Eddie C

At the end of February I posted Part 1, one photo from each day in the first two months of 2015. This is the same deal, a single shot to capture each day in March. Too much snow and the flowers were too late but it was still a good snapshot month for me.

As always, since my uploads are around seven thousand pixels in width, being squeezed down to the five hundred pixel-width of blogs darkens and blurs these photos. So if you want a better look at any of these photos, just click on them. If you want the good view, just click "L" on your keyboard after you get there. Here's an example, the tenth photo below is a dull and lifeless view of Central Park at sunrise, but this is what you get after clicking on the photo and then clicking "L" for Lightbox.  Another example of lightbox improvement is "Shit's about to get real." If you want to know where the photo is from, why I took it or the type of cameras and lenses, all of that information is on the page before clicking "L."

Not that there is anything special in here. The object is to get out there each day and take one decent photo each day. I'd like to think I took more than one decent photo a day and I did add 244 photos to my Flickr Photostream in March, but the rule is one a day. It's a retirement activity for me. My retirement, that really began when I hurt my back in May of 2013, becomes official starting tomorrow!

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Sun Mar 29, 2015 at 03:00 PM PDT

Stand By Me

by Eddie C

It was twenty years ago this week, a voyeuristic experience that happened during my first solo vacation and on my first day in Florence, Italy. A magic moment that came after five days in Rome, a city as cosmopolitan as my hometown except the facts that culture was nothing new to them and Roman Catholicism seemed to once have as much influence as Starbucks and Wall Street combined.

I still felt pretty young back then but the big “Four-Oh!” was rapidly approaching and I had waited long enough for that companion to share the experience of Cappella Sistina with. Actually the whole trip was Stockard Channing’s fault. Florence and Venice were add ons but it was the year of the movie “Six Degrees of Separation” and I purchased the ticket to Rome when I saw her high-five the hand of God. Rome, as I found it, was also a city where no one could ever feel alone.

It was late morning when I had gotten off the first fast train I’d ever experienced, a quick and fascinating ride in one of those six seat compartments that are worked into almost every American movie that is set in Europe. It was a ride where I thoroughly enjoyed the friendliness and broken English of my five Roman companions, sort of what Tyler Durdin called “Single serving friends.” After five wonderful days of instant friends and the lively conversation of that train ride, I got off that train at Santa Maria Novella thinking that the whole world loved me.

Then on my slow walk to the Florence hotel, taking in the red terra cotta roofs with the opera set architecture below and that very special shade of blue Tuscan sky above, I realized that my pace, slowed by gaping at the beauty and questions about finding my bearings seemed to annoy the locals. After all the years I’d worked in Time’s Square surrounded by slow moving tourist, I’d been there and done that but it was not so easy to become comfortable in the familiar after a Roman holiday. Just the bad luck of the draw or if Firenze really is a town where tourists are not welcomed, I could never say. Once I found the Botticellis and Caravaggios of the Uffizi I didn’t give much more thought to the Florentine culture of the present day.

The front desk was nice enough. I sweet talked my way into a view of the Arno. The bellboy was my best friend after a fiver and offered much of the information that the leather clad locals looked at me like I was wearing two heads for asking. A little room service pizza along with some knee slapping laughter over the television in my room and how badly the translators missed the mood of Spock, McCoy and Kirk, then I was off to go and see some things. After an extremely tense Spock “Il mio Capitano! Il mio Capitano!” and William Shatner doing a Steven Wright impersonation in Italian, it was Michelangelo’s David or bust.

If you’ve never been there, I couldn’t even begin to explain looking up at David for the first time. A line from “Trainspotting” comes to mind. “Imagine your best orgasm, multiply it by a thousand, you’re not even close.” If you happen to be looking at David after a week of experiencing the Vatican collection and the awe that is St. Peter’s Basilica, the power of  Roman Catholicism suddenly started making sense. Madison Avenue has nothing on those long dead church leaders. To lead an underprivileged agrarian lifestyle where dirty hand frittatas in the field are as good as it gets and then go to such opulence on Sunday, they owned you. I looked up at the now secularized David and wiping the tears away from my eyes I thought about a time when chasing the good life for good people was about learning to read and write so you could go write Bibles and live celibate but with a full stomach in a shining monastery on a hill.

Then I walked into a "Lake of Fire." As I walked all alone into Palazzo Pitti for the first time in my life, caught up in thoughts of Good Queen Bess slapping the Pope upside his head and the House of Savoy knocking them down to size, there was a good old American hippie with a guitar. Actually he was too young to be a real DFH, probably born in the 1970’s but he was American, dressed for the part and it’s really the thought that counts. He was surrounded by a crowd while strumming out folkish versions of the current tunes of day like Oasis, Pearl Jam, Radiohead and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. As I approached he was playing the Nirvana Unplugged version of "Lake of Fire."  

I still had so much Florence to see but I just could not pull myself away from those familiar sounds. After he finished off I went over to chat with him. He told me how he got there and why he was staying. Then he suggested I put off the Uffizi until I had a full day, instead go to the Boboli Gardens while there was still light and come back again for David at night. For directions he told me to just follow these sixteen girls who had been watching him perform because they were going home for dinner and that was where they lived.

I looked over and saw these sixteen girls. They were probably around twelve or thirteen years old and all of them were wearing the plaid Catholic school uniforms I remembered from my youth. The music had ended but they were still dancing, laughing, giggling and speaking in joyful Italian. After saying goodbye to another single serving friend I followed them thinking of when I was that age and more than a few of Irish American girls I once knew wearing those same uniforms.

I had to give up, they were in no hurry, seemed they needed to examine and discuss every trinket and piece of Florentine leather they came across. I also started feeling both old from watching their energy and a little bit creepy about stalking school girls on the streets of Firenze. So I went back to annoying the locals for directions but when I stopped for another slice of pizza just before crossing the Ponte Vecchio, they caught up with me and I picked up their trail.

There on the bridge, that was when I witnessed something that made me feel so good. More amazing than hearing Kurt Cobain cover tunes in the Pitti Plaza, it was even more emotional for me than seeing Michelangelo’s David. Those young girls got to the middle of the Ponte Vecchio and formed a circle. Surrounded by the gold merchants of the bridge, so innocent and pure, all sixteen sat down in a circle and began to sing “Do do do do... do do do do...do, do, do do...” Then one of the young girls with a beautiful high voice sang “When the night has come and the land is dark.” Another with a deeper voice added “And the moon is the only light we'll see.” Then back to the first vocalist for “No I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid, just as long as you stand, stand by me.” I just couldn't handle it when all the rest, who never stopped do do doing, chimed in and sixteen young Italian girls sitting on that very famous bridge sang out with perfect American accents “And darlin', darlin', stand by me, oh now stand by me, stand by me, stand by me.”

A lot of water has run under that Ponte Vecchio since my experience with culture unshock. It would take almost two decades of growing cynicism for me to make the association between Popes and politicians, the grasp that the Roman Catholic Church once had and the present day grasp of celebrity obsessed consumer capitalist culture. Sorry thoughts about “Pay no attention the man behind the curtain” never changing plague me today but for as long as I live I’ll never forget that one special moment of isolation in my younger life when I felt more like a part of it all than I ever did.

Two decades back but the memory is so vivid that it feels like yesterday.

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Sat Feb 28, 2015 at 04:26 PM PST

1/6th of 365 (Part 1)

by Eddie C

Since I stopped working the rumor in my social circle is that I just stay home to watch Netflix and Amazon Prime. It is true that I do a lot of that but the photos below, one from each day since January 1st is proof positive that I occasionally get out of the apartment.

I'm not very good at one photo a day and these 59 are just a fraction of the 2015 uploads in my Flickrstream. But if you want a peek into my visual diary, the pictures are in chronological order and you can get details on each photo by clicking on each photo.

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Wed Dec 24, 2014 at 10:00 AM PST

NYC Windows ver. 12-25-14

by Eddie C

This Christmas story is about the imagination of the many window designers who present the Holidays through New York City store windows.

Theater Wing - Bergdorf Goodman

Both through the glass and bounced off the surface of these windows, this Christmas story is also a reflection of New Yorkers. There is a little magic on both sides of the glass.

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This was supposed to be a report on the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden. But while I now have photos taken with a much better camera, I can't improve the text on All Aboard: The Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden from five years ago.

So obviously, I'm going to need another garden related topic. For my next act I put together old flower photos from before my software days to post the ghost of flowers past. A little bit of Photoshop and some of these bargain basement camera shots don't look half bad.

An Oldie, but a Goodie

But that doesn't fit the holiday spirit. As you know my garden is a terrace with a strawberry pot and those toy trains are the only public garden show in town. What can I do?

I've got it! Store windows growing out of a concrete jungle, that's garden related.  Right?

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Fri Dec 12, 2014 at 10:47 AM PST

A Tiny Glimmer of Hope

by Eddie C

There's not a lot of hope to be found anymore and change is so six years ago. But in this section of The New York Times called First Draft that is also linked below Spending Bill Heads to Senate After Close Vote in the House on the front page, perhaps one small sign of Democratic values sneaking back into the party.

Former Obama Employees Throw Support to Warren

A group of more than 300 former campaign staff members for President Obama will release an open letter on Friday morning calling for Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts to seek the Democratic Party’s nomination for president.

The signers each worked on Mr. Obama’s successful White House campaigns or at his political organization, now called Organizing for Action, mostly in midlevel jobs as field organizers or as part of the campaigns’ groundbreaking data and technology efforts. They include Rajeev Chopra, who served as chief information officer for both of Mr. Obama’s presidential bids; Catherine Bracy, who directed the 2012 campaign’s tech field office in San Francisco; and Judith Freeman, who served as new media field manager on the 2008 campaign. Their open support for Ms. Warren is a stark departure from the path taken by most senior Obama veterans, many of whom have attached themselves to “super PACs” and nonprofit groups helping to pave the way for Hillary Rodham Clinton‘s likely presidential bid.

“These former Obama staffers are joining the growing momentum behind Elizabeth Warren because we believe in Warren’s vision for our country, and we’d love to see her run in 2016,” said Erica Sagrans, an Obama alum who now the campaign manager for Ready for Warren, a pro-Warren super PAC.

While the letter does not mention Mrs. Clinton, its language suggests that her nascent campaign — already pre-emptively embraced by many in the Democratic establishment — deserves a challenge from Ms. Warren.

“We believed in an unlikely candidate who no one thought had a chance,” the letter states. “Rising income inequality is the challenge of our times, and we want someone who will stand up for working families and take on the Wall Street banks and special interests that took down our economy.”

The letter is the latest in a series of overlapping efforts by liberal organizations, donors and others to pull Ms. Warren into the race.

– Nicholas Confessore

Of course, the party establishment would never tolerate a firm hand with "the Wall Street banks and special interests that took down our economy.” Reid is assembling the votes and Obama is getting his pen ready to sign the ‘Cromnibus’ early Christmas present to bankers where phasing out campaign finance restrictions will make damn sure of that.

Still in these times a small glimmer of hope is so needed. Even though they are listed as midlevel jobs and each link about the story points out that Obama's big dogs are moving on over to Hillary, perhaps the AP mentioning that it is "More than 300 former campaign staffers and organizers for President Barack Obama" that have signed on is at least something.

Perhaps these small voices are worth listening to;

"We believed in an unlikely candidate who no one thought had a chance," the letter states. "We worked for him — and against all odds, we won in Iowa. We organized like no campaign had organized before — and won the Democratic primary."

Perhaps nobody will listen but still, while Erica Sagrans has already earned my respect, those four names Rajeev Chopra, Catherine Bracy and Judith Freeman probably deserve a little respect and a lot of promotion.

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Tue Dec 09, 2014 at 06:03 PM PST

Why does partisanship trump morality?

by Eddie C

After six years of protecting Barack Obama so he could run to the far right of every campaign promise he ever made, morality is probably the last thing anyone at DailyKos would want to discuss. But before you get back to dissecting FoxNews and Republicans, I wonder if I might have a moment of your time to reflect on how much Howard Dean pissed me off this morning.

The thing is this, I knew the democratic party was a total waste of time decades before DailyKos existed but it was Howard Dean who pulled me back. It was on the basis of his moral fiber that I invested my voice, my time and my money into achieving this failed democratic cycle.

On Morning Joe today, the topic was the release of the torture documents. The debaters were Nicolle Wallace representing the right and Howard Dean supposedly representing the left. Joe Scarborough's style of mediation was to inject a laundry list of immoral acts by past Presidents supposedly to protect the American people. When Scarborough got to this administration and added the drone program to the list, Howard Dean interrupted Scarborough to make his support for the drone program known.

I guess there are several ways to rationalize Howard Dean declaring moral bankruptcy. Perhaps he's hoping for the number two slot on the 2016 ticket and there is big campaign money in drones. But as all evidence of the Howard Dean we once knew eroded in one sentence, as he diluted the argument of shedding light on the Bush administration misdeeds by standing in support of the continued secret killing of innocent people without little to no oversight, it's time to take inventory.

No, I don't need to take Howard Dean's inventory. But after holding him in such high regard for so many years, when he said those words, I needed to take a look in the mirror. How much of my moral backbone have I been willing to give away to support Democrats?

What I mean to say is that while Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is certainly the worse for wear, he is still alive. But one sixteen year old American boy along with hundreds of other innocents are dead and will continue to die because of what is going on today. I hate Dick Cheney as much as the next liberal but he's history now and I've been supporting a president who is making enemies faster than he can kill them.

I support Dianne Feinstein a little bit. Twelve years after the last person was water-boarded by Americans and well past Democrats are able to do anything about it, getting out the one news cycle message that her friend George W. Bush probably didn't know about it and Americans did not support what she calls "enhanced interrogation technique" is so typical of Democratic Party style action. Should I really be giving a shit if they are positioning themselves as the minority party that would have passed a bill against torture? It's just that what we Americans are doing, right here right now, seems far worse while nobody seems to care.

What can a decent person do? Blind partisanship prevents Democratic supporters from wanting to know about it. There's little chance of Republicans holding anyone accountable twelve years from now because they will just pick up where Obama left off. Just sit back and ignore the rising death toll from drone attacks abroad while supporting an endless series of empty domestic policy promises?  

Even if we had something more from the last six years to cling to as far as progress is concerned. Had Barack Obama lifted one finger to keep his promises to Unions or had there been a Middle Class advance during the democratic cycle, had that bully pulpit been used to put and end to right-wing tax theories and talking points on minimum wage. If Americans felt more secure about the future of Social Security and Medicare while the social safety net was strengthened, none of those things would get me to worry about what Dick Cheney did ten years ago when the present administration puts an end to wedding parties with Hellfire missiles.

And the question I have for myself is "If I support the Democrats through the next cycle of continuous dry powder capitulation and wait until the Americans public gets so disgusted with Republicans again, if I even live that long, where will my moral compass be then?"    

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Tue Nov 25, 2014 at 10:17 AM PST

Every Mother's Son

by Eddie C

In this street art that is located at 22 E 2nd St. in New York City, you might need to click on the photo to read the names of the sons. The mothers are Iris Baez, Lesley McSpadden, Gwen Carr, Margarita Rosario, Constance Malcolm, Mamie Till and Kadiatou Diallo. The lead artist Sophia Dawson got right to the heart of the matter. Those Mother's names, their grief and the statement "We Want An Immediate End to Police Brutality And The Murder of Black People" are hard to walk away from untouched.  

Every Mother's Son

When I passed by this mural on Sunday, while each name was familiar to me and several more came to mind, with each story tragic replayed, I couldn't help but feel that part of the problem is how many people don't think "Every Mother's Son." How many people think "Other Mother's Sons."

There is little that I can explain or even understand. I'm not sure what actually happened on August 9th in Ferguson, Missouri. I don't know why a grand jury decision was held until 8PM instead of 8AM. But the frustration that leads to people burning down their own community, I think that mural goes a long way in explaining that.

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It's so rare to see a Democrat call a Republican on their lies anymore. But credit where credit is due because this little slice of Rep. Luis Gutierrez tearing Rep. Raul Labrador's story to shreds on a Face the Nation debate today had me cheering.  

A couple of things--surprise, surprise, surprise. The President of the United States, I mean to listen to my friend from Idaho, anybody would think that the President of the United States when he gave the State of the Union address last January kind of took the gavel away from the Speaker of the House after he finished his State of the Union address. He said to the nation, if you do not act, I will use the powers that I have, as President of the United States, to begin to fix the broken immigration system. He repeated that. Speaker Boehner called him at the end of June and said, "Mister President, notwithstanding all your good efforts, notwithstanding all my good efforts, the House will not act on immigration reform." And what did he say? I have called my cabinet together and I will act on the immigration thing. So it seems to me that the argument is now we're going to start legislating.

Well, it's twenty-three months into the legislative session. They control the House of Representatives. They don't need a single vote from the Democrats. We could have been in conference right now. I am not saying to my friend Raul Labrador, that they needed and he knows that I did-- I never said this. I said let's pass a House bill. I just want to make sure, Bob, when they said, no gay families, we didn't walk away from it. When they said there was no path to citizenship. We didn't walk away. When they said we needed to do it in parts and pieces, we didn't walk away. When we gave them thirty thousand more border patrol agents, we found the way to finance that.

I think the problem here, if you listen to Mister McCaul and you listen to my friend Raul Labrador. They mix things up. They want border security, border security, border security. Comprehensive immigration reform secures the border. You cannot secure the border and tell because they keep talking about a border, but you know which border they're talking about, the border between Mexico and the United States. Let me suggest to the American people that there are other borders, it's called LAX, it's called Kennedy, it's called right here Washington Dulles. It is called airports all over this country. Millions of undocumented workers are in the United States that came through those borders. If you want a bill and you truly want to secure our community the President, Bob, was forced to act.

Last, think about it a moment, they want to censure the President. The President has said, I'm inviting millions of people to come forward, go through a background check, a criminal background check at their own expense, pay the taxes that they owe, go back and work and raise their American citizen children, Bob. I think children are special and they're special no matter what the immigration condition of the parents that they have.

Oh, watch the whole thing or read the transcript it's great.
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This diary is a first in a series of New York City visitors guides for gardeners. This first garden for you to explore in the Big Apple is right in Central Park and called the Conservatory Garden. The confusing name is because there actually once was a big glass house that stood on this site from 1898 until a demise caused by Great Depression. But now there are six beautiful outdoor acres in three themed gardens behind the The Vanderbuilt Gate.

The Vanderbuilt Gate

Before going through the gate here's a little trivia about Central Park's only exterior gate. The Vanderbuilt Gate on Fifth Avenue between 104th and 105th Streets didn't start out in that location. After being designed by the American architect George B. Post the gate started out in French foundry and then stood at Fifth Avenue and 58th Street. This elaborate gate that once stood right across the street from the Plaza Hotel guarded the mansion of Cornelius Vanderbilt II and is a reminder of the first Gilded Age.

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This is a story about the chrysanthemum in Japanese culture and how these Japanese traditions came to be exported to the Bronx in 2007. It is also about the ancient Imperial arts of Kiku at Shinjuku Gyoen, an autumn art of Emperors that would become a living art of the Japanese people just after World War II.

The chrysanthemum which has influenced western art since the 17th century has been cultivated in China going back as far as the 15th century BC. Chinese horticulturists cultivated yellow-flowered chrysanthemums as long ago as 500 B.C. and the flower has played a significant role in Chinese art for at least that long.

"The Four Gentlemen" in Chinese art that are used to depict the unfolding of the seasons are the plum blossom for spring, the orchid for summer, the chrysanthemum for autumn, and the bamboo for winter. "Chu" is honored by the Chinese city Chu-Hsien which means Chrysanthemum City. The flower became so popular in China that in ancient Chinese culture, perhaps to prevent peasant farmers from cutting into their own food supply, all but the noble classes were banned from growing chrysanthemum. In the Chinese autumn chrysanthemums have long played a significant role in the Double Ninth Festival.  

It was a Chinese philosopher who once said, "If you would be happy for a lifetime, grow chrysanthemums." But somewhere around the 8th century A.D. when the chrysanthemum was exported from China to Japan, the flower found an even more important role in Japanese culture. Idle speculation on my part but in "Land of the Rising Sun" perhaps the the similarity to the sun of the simple yellow chrysanthemum played a role.

So taken were the Japanese with this flower that "KiKu" became the official flower of Japan. The Japanese adopted a 16-floret variety called "Ichimonjiginu" as the crest and official seal of the Emperor, making Akihito the the 125th Japanese monarch to occupy the Chrysanthemum Throne. The photo below is a modern "Ichimonjiginu."

Mums the Word

Family seals for prominent Japanese families also contain some type of chrysanthemum called a Kikumon – "Kiku" means chrysanthemum and "Mon" means crest. Japan has a National Chrysanthemum Day, which is called the Festival of Happiness.

In the Japanese garden the cycle of life from birth to death is reflected in the quiet passage of a year in the Garden. While most westerners associate springtime and the cherry blossom with Japanese gardening, the autumn climax flower that is often associated with endings in western culture is the reflection and celebration of the growing season in Japan. In Japan the chrysanthemum is a symbol of longevity, power, dignity and nobility.

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