Sunday, 31 July 2011

Legends of Hollywood - Sunday Stamps.

When on holiday earlier this month I complained to my daughter about the stamps she uses on letter to us in the UK. As I've mentioned before I don't really like those dazzle type stamps where companies 'advertise' their name. When I mentioned this to her she had just been out to buy some stamps.

This is what she gave me:

Legends of Hollywood
It was pure chance that she bought this sheet of stamps but quite a coincidence since her favourite book is 'To Kill A Mockingbird.' Incidentally she has even named two of her dogs G(J)em and Scout after the children in the book - although Gem is a girl and Scout the boy.

For other stories behind collectors' stamps visit Viridian's Sunday Stamps 29

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Bumpers - Sepia Saturday

Little did I think when I saw Alan’s photo this week of a lady perched on a car bumper that I would continue my space theme from last week. I knew I had no bumper photos of my own but then I hit on a series of photos from NASA.

Bumper Rocket
In February 1949 a high altitude test vehicle was launched. Called Bumper WAC it became the first recorded man-made object to reach extraterrestrial space at a record altitude of 250 miles. This record was held until 1957.

The first stage of the Bumper WAC was a German V-2, the warhead replaced by a launching compartment. The photo shows the second stage, a modified WAC Corporal rocket mounted in the nose cone. Bumper WAC was the world’s first large two-stage liquid propelled rocket.

Launch of Bumper 8
 Bumper rockets carried small payloads that allowed them to measure conditions such as air temperature and cosmic ray impact. Bumper 7 and Bumper 8 were used for early studies of the earth’s upper atmosphere.
In 1957 the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I and II the first satellites in earth orbit; the US created NASA in 1958. The rest is history.

Nature has its own bumpers in space.

Galactic 'Bumper Cars'
(by NASA, William C Keel, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa.)

This picture, taken by NASA's Hubble Space telescope reveals an intergalactic "pipeline" of material flowing between two battered galaxies that bumped into each other about 100 million years ago.
Astronomers expect more fireworks to come. The galaxies are doomed to continue their game of "bumper cars," hitting each other and moving apart several times until finally merging in another 200 million years. The galaxies are situated about 300 million light-years from earth in the constellation Taurus.

My final picture from space shows how galaxies go wild. Astronomers study how gravity choreographs their motion in the game of celestial bumper cars

Galaxies gone wild.
(by NASA/ESA, The Hubble Heritage - ESA/Hubble Collaboration, and A Evan, University of Virginia, Charlottesville/NRAO/Stony Brook University)

If you have not enjoyed this post then I suppose I shall have to scrap the bumpers and add them to this pile.

Scrapped car bumpers, Wharf Street, Warwick
 ( Robin Stott; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License)

Alan's photo at Sepia Saturday 85 was the lady at Warwick Farm Racecourse so I maintained a 'Warwick' connection. Check it out there for more bumper fun

Big - Thematic Photography

I've posted photos before of Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge, Clifton Suspension Bridge and the Middlesbrough's public art structure Temenos. All of these would qualify for Carmi's theme of 'Big' this week.

However our thoughts this week have often been of Norway where I worked for almost ten years.  My first picture is of  Norwegian flags flying proudly on big flagpoles in Stavanger on happier days.

Stavanger in the 1980s
A big tourist attraction within reach of Stavanger is Prekestolen, the Pulpit Rock. It's well worth a visit but you need your walking boots as it takes up to 1.1/2hrs to reach the top. I just happen to have a postcard showing it in a dramatic fashion.

Prekestolen (597 meters high)
How would you fancy sitting on the top and dangling your feet over the edge as some people do? Not me!

Norway is also known for building offshore platforms. My next postcard is of one, the first I saw during construction.

Statfjord 'A' Platform
Under tow out to the North Sea, 105m above and 119m below sea level

During my first year in Norway I had to visit industrial sites in different places in Europe. In late 1979 one trip took me via Frankfurt in Germany from where I sent this postcard to my wife.

Frankfurt am Main Telecommunication Tower
The cafeteria viewing platform is 220m high, the total height slightly over 331m - big as well as elegant.

For more 'big' surprises don't forget to check out Carmi's thematic photographic 155

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Old Wardour Castle and the Ghost of Lady Blanche

Old Wardour Castle is located near Shaftesbury, Wiltshire in South West England. The Castle was built by John, 5th Lord Lovell on land previously owned by the St Martin family.

Old Wardour Castle
Photo by Mike Searle (image from Geograph Project Collection) 
(Creative commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License)

The castle was bought by Sir Thomas Arundell in 1544. He, a staunch Roman Catholic, was executed for treason in 1552. On his death the castle was confiscated, but later bought back by his son Sir Matthew Arundell.

In May 1643 Thomas, 2nd Baron Arundell was away on King’s business when Parliamentary forces besieged the castle. His wife 61 year-old Lady Blanche Arundell and 25 retainers defended the Old Wardour Castle for 5 days, only surrendering when two mines exploded under the walls.

After Lord Arundell died his successor returned in 1644 and besieged the castle for four months before retaking it

However instead of honouring the terms of surrender the Roundheads had first imprisoned and then executed Lady Blanche.

The damage sustained by the castle was so great that the castle was never repaired. Abandoned in the 1700s its ruins have since been incorporated in the grounds of nearby New Wardour House.

Old Wardour Castle ruins
 Adapted from a photo by Trish Steel (image from Geograph Project Collection) 
(Creative commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License)

Lady Blanche has not given up; her ghost did not abandon the castle. At twilight she appears on the walls, haunts the grounds and walks down to the lake.

The family died out in the 20th century and it is unlikely that one of the castle’s supernatural events will be repeated. White owls, seen as harbingers of death, would flutter round the castle as a warning of an approaching tragedy.

Old Wardour Castle was used for some scenes in the modern film Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. What would Lady Blanche, or her ghost, have made of Kevin Costner?

Monday, 25 July 2011

The Floating Comma

The comma is a punctuation mark which indicates the shortest pause. Despite there  being some simple rules for their use many writers tend to write long sentences with many commas in them. It's much better to use fewer commas, and write shorter, more direct sentences.

I won't bore you with all the rules. There are many places where you may find them. Just don't become like one writer whose articles resulted in him being called 'the comma man.'

I'd like to introduce you the 'floating'comma. To give you a clue I'll quote Mohamed Ali, "Float like a butterfly..."

The first comma butterfly I've ever seen in my garden floated from place to place before decided on a place to rest.

Comma butterfly on buddleia flower
It could not decide on where it should position itself and was confused by the number of  flowers to settle on.

Comma in a different place.
Eventually it changed it's mind and abandoned the buddleia altogether.

Comma on forsythia bush
This is one comma that I would be delighted to see at any time. If I had a lot of these I would be quite content to be called 'the comma man.'

Friday, 22 July 2011

Vacation -Thematic Photography

The Vacation theme this week gave me something of a problem as I have already used many of my photos on earlier blog posts which mainly deal with wildlife.

Checkout these links to see what I took:
Michigan Wildlife
Birding in Michigan
When Rocky Met Bambi
I Never Promised You A Rose Garden

However when were were packing to leave on the last morning of our vacation at my daughter's house in Michigan my wife called to us to look out of the window. No-one got excited as we expected to see a deer as they are regular visitors to the grounds.

I grabbed my camera and got this shot of the animal strolling by the front porch. A deer it was not!

My daughter wanted to know whether it was a cow. To my wife and I it obviously was not. When my son-in-law was roused confusion reigned over just what we had seen. By this time the bullock was out of sight.

In America the term bull is understood, but not bullock. We settled for American terminology in the end and the English bullock became a steer.

This meant that it was necessary to set up a 'steer(ing)' committee. First we had to find the steer. In the meantime my son-in-law had alerted the local sheriff that there was bull on the loose and had driven round the neighbourhood to check if one had been lost.

By searching the grounds I located the steer at the edge of the property by the swamp and near the boundary road.

Steer at bay.
 When the sheriff arrived this photo was vital evidence for him as he had expected to see the black bull that had gone walk about earlier in the week.

The final steer(ing) committee was soon complete - the sheriff, the attorney (my daughter), the photographer (me), my son-in-law, a farm hand and Halo, his dog. However the steer had moved on. It was to be Halo's job to flush him out. Halo was far more interested in the scent left by my daughter's dogs.

Halo, the St Bernard.
Halo did respond to a shout and a whistle from his owner who was now deep in the woods.

Halo to the rescue
Despite all the efforts the steer eluded everyone, Even although his exit to a nearby farm was found the steer was not. Perhaps he is wandering on still looking for his herd.

The steer(ing) committee disbanded and every one cooled down, the dogs in the lake.

Cooling off period.
An interesting end to a vacation; see more holiday snaps at Carmi's thematic photographic 154 Vacation

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Spaced Out - Sepia Saturday

Alan's photo for this week is a researcher testing out an early space suit for the Apollo Moon Project. I thought I would acknowledge the debt we owe to animals that led the way in space. I hope you like my choice.

Chimpanzee Enos is pictured wearing a space suit and lying in his flight couch as a handler holds his hands. He is being prepared for insertion into the Mercury-Atlas 5 capsule. You may read his story at here. There is also a film clip of his journey into space which you may like to see Enos space flight.

Not so well known is the story of Teddy Bears in space.

Teddies in space
(Image courtesy of the University of Cambridge Department of Engineering and Nokia;
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
Four teddy bears travelled(voyaged) to the edge of space in an experiment run by Cambridge University Spaceflight, with the SPARKS science club at Parkside Community College and Coleridge Community College. The bears were lifted to 30,085 metres above sea level on a latex high altitude balloon filled with helium. The aim of the experiment was to determine which materials provided the best insulation against the -53 ° C temperatures experienced during the journey. Each of the bears wore a different space suit designed by the 11-13 year olds from SPARKS.

Im sure you all remember the Russian dogs that were sent into orbit in the early days of space flight. They deserve a tribute and I found this,
Belka & Strelka space dogs on graffiti, Kharkov 2008
(By V Vizu - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
Don't forget to check out other space odysses at Sepia Saturday 84

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Birds on Sunday Stamps

I'm pleased to be able to rejoin Viridian's Sunday Stamps now I am back in the UK. This week's theme of  'Birds' has given me a problem as I have over 50 bird stamps.

In 1966 Great Britain issued a set of four stamps of which I can present just two, I'm missing the blackbird and the robin.

Black-headed Gull & Blue Tit (1966)
Later issues included waterbirds - again I have two of these.

Dipper & Puffin
 The puffin stamp was issued to commemorate the centenary of the Royal Society for Protection of Birds. The puffin colonies in the UK are threatened by the reduction in availability of sandeels, their staple food.

Another bird whose numbers are decreasing as a result of modern farming methods is shown on my next stamp.
Lapwing (also known as the peewit)
Becaause I've been on holiday in the USA I ought to show some of their stamps. The first one below is a favourite of mine.

I have still to research the details about the Pelican Island refuge.

Blue Jay & Ring-necked Pheasant
Finally for this week I must include the stamp commemorating a famous man who painted birds, John James Audubon (1785-1851).

You may read all about him and the Audubon Society at John James Audubon You can also follow the Audubon Society on Facebook if you wish.

For more bird stamps visit Viridian's sunday-stamps-27

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Players - Sepia Saturday

I could not find suitable photos amongst my collection this week so had to seach the web. I came up with groups of players but none with beer or cards. I settled for chess instead.

Egyptian Chess Players 1879
This painting is by Lawrence Alma-Tadmena (1831-1912), a Dutch-British painter, draughtsman, etcher and illustrator.

My second group is more modern and shows The Chess Players, a bronze sculpture by Lloyd Lillie in John Marshall Park in the Judiciary Square neighbourhood of Washington DC. The E Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse is in the background.

The Chess Players - by AgnosticPreachersKid 14/04/2010
( Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 unported license)

My next group are alive and engrossed in their game.

Chess players in a park, Kiev - by Robert Broadie 02/07/2006
( Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 unported license)

Perhaps you prefer dice to chess. This fresco from Pompeii shows Roman dice players.
Dice Players
Roman fresco from the Osteria dell Via di Mercurio (VI 10,1.19, room b) in Pompeii
(Source: Filippo Coarelli (ed): Pompeji. Hirmer, Munchen 2002 ISBN 3-7774-9530-1 p146)

When I saw this fresco it reminded me of something much closer to home. I know this exists as I have seen it.
The Dice Players - George de la Tour (early 1650s, oil on canvas) 
This picture is on display at the Preston Hall Museum, Stockton-on-Tees less than ten miles from my home in  North East England.

For more interpretations of the sepia theme visit Alan Burnett's sepia saturday 83

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Parallels - Thematic Photography.

This week's theme set by Carmi is Parallel which if you are not careful could be confused with last week's Vertical.

I've elected to concentrate on animals this time - well on dogs and a hamster named Deirdre, an escapologist of some renown.

Lily, a Border Collie, takes the parallel bars at speed.
I wonder whether she could take the parallels of the background fence as well.

Deirdre was a childrens' pet some thirty years ago. It didn't matter to her whether parallel bars were vertical or horizontal, they were there to be gnawed or climbed on the way out of her cage.

Deirdre inside her cage for once.
 Labradors like to be inside the house but are equally at home sunning themselves on the deck but not on the parallel planks, their beds are more comfortable.

Sam and Maxie take it easy.
An engineering structure has parallels too as shown by the main support frame for the Statfjord B platform under construction at Rosenberg Verft. Stavanger in the 1980s.

Statfjord B MSF at Rosenberg Verft
You may draw other parallels by visiting Carmi's thematic photographic 153 parallel

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Light at the End of the Tunnel - Sepia Saturday

I've tried to stick with the station theme with these shots sent to me by my daughter a few years ago.

Washington DC Subway Station

The light shining through a much older structure makes a contrast with the shadows it created.

Fountains Abbey
Fountains Abbey near Ripon in North Yorkshire gives a photographer a lot of scope to obtain pictures enhanced by light effects as shown by this second shot.

That stripe on the grass looks as if it has been painted there.

For more light and station entertainment call in on other posts for Alan Burnett's  Sepia Saturday 82

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

SS Great Britain - Vertical Thematic Photography

Over the next week Carmi has chosen Vertical as his theme. It seemed to me that some shots I took earlier this year of Brunel's famous ship the SS Great Britain  would fit it perfectly.

SS Great Britain - abandoned in the Falklands.
This is a 'photo of a photo' in the exhibition aboard the ship as it lies in the Bristol dry dock today. It shows the condition of the ship before it was returned to its home port and restored.

The full glory of those vertical masts can be seen in this picture taken at the Historic Quay that houses the ship and the exhibition.

SS Great Britain
I've managed to maintain the verticals by including the quayside railings in this shot of the stern of the ship in all its splendour.

The first class dining room looks resplendent with its shining pillars.

Dining Room
Finally for this week the photographer was horizontal,on his back, to capture a worm's eye view of a mast.

I hope you liked this vertical tour. Check out more at Carmi's thematic photographic 152