Monday, May 30, 2011

Nature's Morphology

Sometimes, strolling through Kentucky's wilderness, I'm struck by the imagery in ordinary nature scenes that can restimulate reactions in the mind. Psychologists call it pareidolia but I think there's something more to it than that. Jung was trying to understand it. Rupert Sheldrake came closer. Maybe The Wizard of Oz got it. Lost definitely did.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Forward is This Way

There's still a few formatting tweaks forthcoming (the paragraphing is unintentionally oddly spaced out) but my first piece for KyForward is live on the web now! Woo-hoo!

I'm excited to be on board as a part of the KyForward team, because their positive, constructive outlook meshes well with my own stubborn views on newsmedia sensationalism and real winning (as opposed to Charlie Sheen's hijacking of the word.)

KyForward is a brand new site - so new, in fact, it's still under construction and beta as all get out, but come along for the ride with me and watch it continue to grow and flourish in the days and weeks ahead.

I'll be doing a weekly column for KyForward doing my usual unusual thing, as well as spotlight features on notable Kentuckians who are out there achieving, accomplishing, and acting rather than doing nothing. If that sounds like somebody you know - heck, maybe it sounds like you! - call me, email me, send me smoke signals.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Consider the Cobblestones

One from my Visual Slushpile photo blog:

In downtown Louisville, under every street, the original cobblestone streets are hidden beneath a layer of pavement. And beneath those cobblestones is soil that has not been seen by the eyes of man since the mid-1800s.

Anything that someone chose to hide under a cobblestone in the 19th century, or buried in the ground even before the cobblestone streets were laid, has been hidden very well indeed for a long, long time.

Just you think on that.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Stolen Italian Icon Found at Speed Museum

Very interesting piece today from the New York Times about a painted gatefold icon that was stolen in Italy in 1971. 40 years after it vanished, it turned up in a dusty back storeroom of Louisville's Speed Museum.

The Speed's not to blame, though - they acquired the piece from a reputable gallery in New York for $38,000 in 1973, just two years after it had been purloined. How it got to that gallery is a matter that is still being investigated by the Department of Homeland Security. (Seriously? Since when do they handle 1970s cold-case files of burglaries in Italy?)

According to the article:

Under a settlement negotiated by the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York and announced on Monday, the Speed will soon turn over the painting to Homeland Security, which will transfer it to Italian cultural authorities. (The collector who owned the painting in 1971 has since died, and the authorities will be responsible for determining who is entitled to it now.)

Before that, however, the museum will show the painting, which it has not exhibited for at least a decade, from June 9 to July 3 as part of a small exhibit that will, according to the museum’s director, Charles L. Venable, “contextualize it in a larger world of provenance research and repatriation of works of art.”

Monday, May 23, 2011

Storm, 5/23/2011

Two summers ago, I found myself caught in a spooky pre-tornadic storm as I made my way East on Shelbyville Road and then moved sideward to Westport. It happened all over again today.

Photographs rarely convey just how creepy some storms can be; though these examples aren't as dramatic looking as some of my other storm images, the knowledge that this was part of the same weather system that destroyed Joplin, MO gave me extra incentive to hustle home ASAP.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Genny's Diner

One from our Whitewashed Windows and Vacant Stores blog:

Although I rarely ate there, Genny's Diner was a Louisville tradition and I will miss it. Their deep-fried "frickled" pickles were a unique local item which you don't see every day.

Owner Frank Faris, after years of battling with the city over his property next door, has been put out of business. Part of it is his own fault: he steadfastly refused to make ordered upkeep improvements to the home, despite court orders to do so. But I think Faris got a raw deal in the end: when he announced his intention to bulldoze the house to make more parking spaces for his diner, a group of concerned citizens got together and colluded to hurriedly designate the dump a "historic home", specifically so he couldn't do what he wanted to with his own property.

And when he still refused to cooperate, a judge ordered him to sell the house. And when he couldn't find a buyer, the judge actually ordered him to give it away for free. Can a judge really do that? Well, this one did, and I didn't hear many people squawking about it.

The way the whole thing turned out for Faris leaves a very unsavory taste in my mouth. It's true that his own behavior is why it all ended in drama and Faris' arrest, but I nevertheless sympathize with Faris for trying to conduct himself as if he was still living in an era when people were allowed to do what they wanted to with their own personal property. Those days are gone, and with their passing we've all lost something bigger than fried pickles.

A gourmet ice cream place called the Comfy Cow is slated to take over the Genny's Diner location. Ironically, they're going to bulldoze it and start over with a new building of their own.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Denunzio's Double Statues

Off the top of my noggin, I'm hard-pressed to think of another instance where I've seen a grave with two larger-than-life statues, one above the other on a second tier.

This is Joseph Denunzio in Louisville's St. Louis Cemetery; from the dignified pomp of his marker's presentation, you'd be easily led to assume this is the grave of the former mayor of Louisville who shares a similar name - but actually, this Joseph Denunzio was apparently an importer of fruits and vegetables, and they were related. He founded the Denunzio Fruit Company at 108 W. Jefferson Street, which continued to exist at least into the 1940s.

But according to John Kleber's Encyclopedia of Louisville, "his grave monument at Calvary Cemetery shows him in the pose of an auctioneer with produce at his feet." Waitaminute. This is St. Louis Cemetery, not Calvary, and I don't see any produce at his feet, Boss. What gives? Has Kleber made a typo (hey, it happens)? Or could this be our third Joseph Denunzio? This must be the guy, because he does look rather auctioneer-like, and he's clearly leaning against a stack of fruit crates.

The second statue in the stack is the traditional woman-with-anchor Statue of Hope, from the Catholic Virtues (Faith, Hope, Charity) which are in turn derived from 1 Corinthians 13:13:

And now abideth faith, hope, and love, even these three: but the chiefest of these is love.

I'm not sure how "love" and "charity" (caritas) got morphed into it along the way, because the actual original text says ἀγάπη, which is a concept unto itself and loses something in the translation. (ἀγάπη, or Agape, has been defined as "an intentional response to promote well-being when responding to that which has generated ill-being" - in other words, outdoing negativity by throwing more positivity at it.)

Since the traditional Catholic representation of Charity sometimes depicts a woman with children gathering fruit, I would have thought that would have been a more appropriate choice for Louisville's premier fruit purveyor.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hopscotch House

The Kentucky Foundation for Women operates a fantastic retreat for women called Hopscotch House, located in a remote rural area East of Louisville. And when I say remote, I mean remote. Getting there like is something of a challenge, like following the route to Snuffy Smith's cabin - going through a winding maze of roads that lead to a narrow path filled with potholes, rocks, and cow-catchers. And in the wintertime when the steep roads are covered in ice, it's nearly impossible. (I know all this because I have given rides out there to a friend who makes use of their facilities, and helped her haul all her stuff inside.)

The Hopscotch House is strictly for women, and even more specifically, if their own self description is to believed, it's really mostly about feminist women:

"Hopscotch House was purchased by the Kentucky Foundation for Women in 1987 and was first used by a group of women writers known as the Wolf Pen Writer’s Colony. In the early 1990’s Hopscotch House became available to other women artists and women’s groups. Over the years, Hopscotch House has served thousands of women including artists, activists, feminists, eco-feminists, art critique groups, drumming circles, quilting groups, social justice groups, girls’ empowerment groups, arts organizations, and social service organizations.

Hopscotch House retreats and residencies provide time and space for Kentucky women artists to create in an environment that inspires, nurtures, and rejuvenates. Stays there encourage self-exploration and personal growth through the land and house resources and the company of other women... Hopscotch House is also a place to engage with a community of feminist social change artists and activists who convene in a nurturing environment. Many people find the sharing of common interests and goals in their work to be a great source of support and inspiration."

But fear not, those of you out there in reader-land who are either cursed with, as Robert Louis Stevenson said, "the misfortune to be a man", or are among my female compatriots whose idea of feminism has more in common with Dita Von Teese and Poison Ivy Rorschach than, say, Susan Brownmiller or Trish Wilson. I'm here to take one for the team, and go behind the scenes with a pictorial tour to show you what few male eyes have ever seen.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Karst Conservancy's Cavernous Concert

A couple summers ago, I lamented here that Bluegrass concerts inside Rockcastle County's Great Saltpetre Cave, once a great Kentucky tradition, are no longer being performed.

Good news for modern man: the Bluegrass is back! Coming this August, the Music in the Mountain fundraising show will finally put the cave's Echo Auditorium, a huge underground chamber that makes a perfect concert hall, to good use again. The show will feature music by the Renfro Valley Performers doing their "Front Porch Pickin' Show", and the proceeds go to helping maintain and preserve the region's amazing caves and karst.

The show is August 20 at pm, and tickets must be purchased in advance. Call 800.765.7464. Map and directions are here.

(photo at top by Nathan Williams.)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Kentucky Case Ends In Greater Police Powers

The Supreme Court, in an 8 to 1 decision, has given police greater powers to force their way into your homes, thanks to a Kentucky marijuana case.

Police officers who loudly knock on a door and "hear sounds that suggest evidence is being destroyed" may now legally break down the door and enter your home without a search warrant. That's right, without a search warrant. And what defines "sounds that suggest evidence is being destroyed"? Well, the police get to determine that for themselves. In other words, they've been given carte blanche to do whatever they want. (Like they don't already in some places.)

Residents who "attempt to destroy evidence have only themselves to blame" when police burst in, said Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. I think it's amazing that Mr. Alito is already assuming, hypothetically, that the police are automatically in the right and that evidence was really being destroyed. If someone flushes a toilet, does that count as "sounds that suggest evidence is being destroyed"? Or running their sink's garbage disposal?

Historically, police have not been allowed to just bust their way into a home without a search warrant. That's now officially over. Just like a lot of other things.

The Los Angeles Times tells how we got here:

It began when police in Lexington, Ky., were following a suspect who allegedly had sold crack cocaine to an informer and then walked into an apartment building. They did not see which apartment he entered, but when they smelled marijuana smoke come from one of the apartments, they wrongly assumed he had gone into that one. They pounded on the door and called "Police. Police. Police," and heard the sounds of people moving.

At this, the officers announced they were coming in, and they broke down the door. They found Hollis King smoking marijuana, and put him under arrest. They also found powder cocaine. King was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Did you catch that? They "heard the sounds of people moving." That's all. These idiot cops broke down the door - and the WRONG door at that - because they "heard the sounds of people moving." And they got away with it. And now the Supreme Court has handed all other cops in the nation a license to do the exact same thing with impunity.

Law-abiding citizens like you and me now have to fear that some moron is going to bust down our door if they make a huge mistake like these officers did, and smash it down if they "hear us moving."

Ruth-Bader Ginsburg, apparently the only member of the Supreme Court who still has a soul left, dissented from the rest of the herd and said the decision her fellow lawgivers made "arms the police with a way routinely to dishonor the 4th Amendment's warrant requirement".

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pickin' Party!

It won't be long before it's time once again for the Pickin' Party Old-Time Music Festival, which will be held on Memorial Day weekend (May 28-29) at Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area, along the KY-TN border.

This year the party will be emceed by 23-year Kentucky Opry veteran, Scottie Henson. The lineup for the two-day event includes Mark Dvorak, the Dixie Volunteers, the Cumberland River Plowboys, Dan Knowles, Bawn in the Mash (pictured above), Steephill Travelers, Common Thread, Red River Breeze, and Nathan Blake Lynn.

There will also be daily open mic sessions that anyone is free to get in on, so bring an instrument!

Golden Pond Planetarium and Observatory

One of the state's best-kept astronomy secrets is the Golden Pond Planetarium and Observatory, located at the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area.

The observatory is home to the West Kentucky Amateur Astronomers, who hold meetings on each Saturday closest to the New Moon. The public is invited to attend these meetings. For a complete schedule of WKAA meetings, consult their calendar of events.

General observing at the Golden Pond observatory is done through a 17.5" Dobsonian and two 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes, but also houses a 12.5" custom-built Newtonian telescope that is set up for astro-photography, and there is also a 4.5" refractor set up for Hydrogen-Alpha viewing of the sun.

The planetarium offers exciting regular programs such as Two Small Pieces of Glass (a live documentary on the history of the telescope) and Journey to the Edge of Space and Time, which takes the audience on a journey through celestial objects such as black holes as galaxy clusters.

It's all overseen by the Friends of LBL who could certainly use your donations, membership, and volunteerism.

Photo above: NGC 3628, taken by WKAA member Jay McNeil.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tree Buds with Mystery Fluff

One from my Visual Slushpile photo blog:

This mega-close-up shot of tiny buds on a tree branch (they're each smaller than a pea) revealed an even tinier white speck hanging in the air between them. One can just barely discern that it's clinging on one of two almost-invisible strands of web.

Is it a spider egg sac? Or an actual bit of fluffy detritus that floated along and got caught in a web?

My best guess is that it's a young specimen of those weird white insects that look like super-tiny bits of fluff even as adults. I tried a brief stab at googling and didn't see any immediate answers. Apparently a lot of people are in the same boat as me; they've seen it before but can't identify it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Armstrong Hotel

The Armstrong Hotel, which once stood at the corner of 6th and Main in Shelbyville, must have been an interesting place in the good old days. The historical marker notes that it was "known for its good food and lodgings" since 1859, but also for two newsworthy murders.

Henry Denhardt, former Lt. Governor of Kentucky from Bowling Green, was charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Verna Garr Taylor, and tried in LaGrange in November, 1936.

That trial ended in a hung jury, and while free on bail and awaiting his second trial, he was shot to death by Verna's brothers in front of the Armstrong Hotel on September 20, 1937. Denhardt, who had a reputation as a heavy drinker, had just come from a tavern down the street and was about to go back up to his room at the Armstrong.

Verna's brothers got off scot free, incidentally, and to this day no one can say for sure whether Denhardt was guilty or innocent of Verna's murder.

And back during the Civil War, Union guerilla leader Edwin Terrell stopped here on May 26, 1866 while on the run from the law. A posse caught up with him at the Armstrong, and though he tried to escape, he was shot to death nearby after fleeing the Hotel. Terrell sounds like an interesting rogue; according to an article by Stewart Cruickshank:

"Prior to the Civil War it is thought that Edwin Terrell performed in a circus. He reportedly killed a bartender in Baltimore but was acquitted of the charges. Oral tradition has it that Terrell served in the 1st Kentucky Infantry, C.S.A., in 1861. Terrell himself claimed that he'd served under General John Hunt Morgan and had escaped a court martial sentence of death for killing an officer. There is a record of an Edward Terrell enlisting in August 1862 in Morgan's 7th Kentucky Cavalry. This soldier deserted in September."

Hatchet Mailbox

One from our weird mailboxes department: this fun mailbox of someone named Hatchett, with their namesake represented atop it. Spotted on the way to Lake Shelby.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Abraham Lincoln, Spiritualist?

I've often read accusations of President Lincoln - our nation's only Kentuckian President - having been an occultist, a pagan, or even an atheist. These sort of things usually come from those sort of people (and I think you know who I mean) who have an agenda in wanting to smear Mr. Lincoln's name.

But far from dashing my respect for him, I actually have greater fascination than ever for ol' Abe after doing some research on his involvement with the Spiritualism religion. Strange as it may seem, The President of the United States and the First Lady actually held seances right in the White House.

To many, Spiritualism may seem not all that different from Theosophy. The main difference, aside from Theosophists having a greater flair for ritual and grand-poobah hats and medals, is that "mediums" like Annie Besant and Helena Blavatsky believed that they were contacting some sort of higher life forms to receive divine wisdom and cosmic knowledge. Spiritualists, on the other hand, just wanted to call up Uncle Davenport on the horn and ask him how's the food in Heaven. Wikipedia says: "Spiritualists at that time viewed Theosophy as unscientific and both occultist and cult-like. Theosophists viewed Spiritualism as unsophisticated and uncosmopolitan."

But let's face it - what could be more occult than conjuring up the souls of the dead and communicating with them? And some Spiritualists, like Vermont's Achsa W. Sprague, claimed that they used the powers of the spirits to cure their medical ills. This would actually make Sprague and her ilk the first sort-of "faith healers", even before Mary Baker Eddy or William Branham.

In defense of Lincoln, the White House seances were largely organized by his wife Mary Todd (who was also a Kentuckian, born in Lexington). Lincoln very well could have just gone along with it all to appease her.

Even if he was genuinely a believer in it, he may have still taken it only as seriously as people today who go to Psychic Channellers, which is to say, hopefully not much aside from entertainment's sake.

Then, too, the Lincolns' interest in mediums and spiritualists was to try to contact their dead son, who they still grieved for heavily. (And after the President's murder, Mary Todd went even deeper into Spiritualism - and madness.)

On the other hand, Lincoln himself admitted that he "always had a strong tendency to mysticism", and Lincoln's friend and law partner, William Herndon said that Lincoln actually wrote a treatise in defense of Thomas Paine's anti-Christian and anti-religious booklet The Age of Reason in 1835, and that their friend Samuel Hill destroyed it to save Lincoln's political career from the controversy it would have surely caused.

Colonel Simon F. Kase, a powerful railroad lobbyist and Washington insider, wrote a book after Abe's death called The Emancipation Proclamation, How, and By Whom It was Given to President Lincoln in 1861 In it, Kase relates how he and a local Judge decided to attend a seance at a home in Georgetown, out of curiosity. There, they were astounded to see President Lincoln and the First Lady in attendance as well.

Kase reported that a young teenage female medium approached the President, eyes closed in a trance, and lectured him (through a spirit voice speaking through her) on how he must put an end to slavery and how the nation would forever be locked in Civil War until he did so. Lincoln, who entered the Civil War with no intention of abolishing slavery, soon changed his philosophy and took the young psychic's advice.

That girl was Nettie Colburn, who went on to write about her experience in a book called Was Abraham Lincoln a Spiritualist?. She tells of how a piano was made by one of the spirit mediums to rise by itself, lifted by the hands of unseen ghosts. Seemingly skeptical, Lincoln joked "I think we can hold down that instrument". He and three others including Col. Kase all sat on the piano, and yet it continued to rise up and down by itself, carrying the President of the United States off the ground with it. Colburn says, "We were convinced that there were no mechanical contrivances to produce the strange result, and Mr. Lincoln expressed himself perfectly satisfied that the motion was caused by some "invisible power."

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, was himself a Spiritualist, and he said that Lincoln's seance with Nettie was "was one of the most important events in the history of the United States. This spirit message strengthened the President in taking a difficult step to which he was not yet firmly committed."

Monday, May 9, 2011

Post-Derby Blimp

"Hello, MUFON? I saw this UFO yesterday flying really low over my house. It was sort of sausage-shaped, dark gray, and made an ear-splittingly loud grinding sound that upset all my dogs. Yeah, and it said "Good Year" on the side. Hello? ......hello?"

I suppose it was blimping its way back to wherever it comes from - Blimp, Inc. Central HQ - after the events of the Derby wound down. But I surprised it was cruising at such a low altitude; good thing there are no tall buildings around these parts.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Four Leaf Vinca

I was taking photos of various flowers, blooms and buds on my property today and happened to notice that a couple of the flowers on the Vinca growing around the edge of the house had only four leaves and a square-shaped center (above), as opposed to the standard blooms with five leaves and star-shaped center (below).

I did a quick glance at Google and neither a web nor an image search for "four leaf Vinca" brings up a damn thing about this being normal. It would seem that what we have here is a mutation. Though the radioactive particles wafting across the nation from Fukushima were naturally the first thing that entered my mind, it must be said that the four-leaf clover is an example of an occasional mutation that's been happening as long as there's been clover - no radiation needed. Still though, I wonder, hmmmmm, yes, I wonder....

(And if you have any interest in seeing my other pitchers o' purty flars, the rest of what I took today will soon end up at my new blog Visual Slushpile, an abyss where my photos for which I have no purpose will be indiscriminately hurled. Unlike our friend JLK's Image of the Week, which has a modicum of effort and forethought in its selection, my blog will be more of a random literal photo-dump of whatever, whenever, no rhyme, no reason.)