Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bertram's Vicarious Travels (Or, More Fun with Photoshop)

The merge/masking technique I learned today
can be very amusing...
Here's Bertram on the nave roof of Florence cathedral.

The Peoples of the British Isles

"There were the Scots, who kept the Sabbath and everything else they could get their hands on.
Then there were the Welsh, who prayed on their knees and their neighbors.
Thirdly there were the Irish, who never knew what they wanted but were willing to fight for it anyway.
Lastly, there were the English, who considered themselves a self-made nation, thus relieving the Almighty of a dreadful responsibility."

(source: Sharyn McCrumb, Missing Susan, New York, 1991).

Learning New Photoshop Tricks

I'm taking a free mini class on campus on photoshop,
and learning to manipulate layers and masks.
I have always avoided this before
(it seemed too headache-inducing)
but I think I am going to want to learn to play with this.
Observe my rose, for example.
(The original photo is not mine,
though I've photographed similar settings.)
This was an exercise in mask making and selecting,
so that we could make a black and white background
but with selected color bits.
I expect this could be quite fun to twiddle with.
I have a HUGE stock of flower photos...

Saturday, January 21, 2012


On my last road trip I saw several hawks.

Above: in southern Utah, near Monticello:
likely an immature red tailed hawk
(Buteo jamaicensis)

This one flying over the Amistad Dam between Texas and Mexico:
likely a Ferruginous hawk
(Buteo regalis)

On a telephone wire in western Louisiana.

Near Gallup, New Mexico.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Snake Time, Book Time, Nap Time

There are advantages to being a middle-aged,
divorced, childless professional.
One is driving an SUV (which I really love)
and another is having a lot of snake/book/nap time--
at least, until the semester gets much busier.
Last week I had a holiday and a cold,
two things that kept me in bed with book and snake,
not to mention lots of naps.
(The book is _The King of Attolia_
by Megan Whalen Turner,
which I was rereading for the umpteenth time.)


Oh how I LOVE my "new" 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser--
He is so fun to drive.
Emily & the kids & I went up the canyon yesterday
to enjoy driving him.
Thanks, Emily, for taking lots of pictures with me and my new baby!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

This one is NOT laughing.

I dearly want to post pictures of the Belvedere Gorgon
on my blog
(from the Faina museum in Orvieto),
but I am afraid it will give some of my readers nightmares.
It scares ME.
Now some Gorgons are kind of funny,
like the kind that Helene Cixous claimed were 'laughing' and 'beautiful.'
Well, not this one.
Her fangs are pretty formidable, for starters,
and she gets more frightening from there.
If you are dying to see the picture,
post a comment and I will email it to you...

Mithras in Relief

My reading has indicated that relief sculptures of Mithras
are actually more common than sculptures in the round.
This relief (with the inscription dedicated to Mithras as unconquered sun god)
is also in the Vatican Museum, hall of the animals,
I believe the Pio-Clementine wing,
though I'd have to double check my museum guide.
At any rate, this is also a very fine piece.

Mithras in the Vatican Museum

This particular Mithras has been restored a lot,
so of course he looks great.
He's got the Phrygian cap on,
and as he stabs the bull the three animals are apparent-
the snake and dog (in this detail)
as well as the scorpion down by his testicles-
who tried to steal the bull's blood.
It's a very classical looking piece.

Mithras at Ostia

The top two photos are from Ostia's Mithras baths,
with a reconstruction of the original statue.
The bottom two show the statue in the Ostia museum,
along with a detail of the inscription on the bull.
This dates from the first century A.D.
I am very pleased to have these pictures in my collection,
as I find Mithraea very interesting.
(Mithras was a Persian solar god who slew a mythic bull
and thus brought life to the world.)
I love this Mithraeum, too.
It's extremely atmospheric,
and visiting it was definitely my favorite part of Ostia.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Ravenna: the Squinches at San Vitale

For years I had been searching in vain for good digital details
of the San Vitale squinches that support the dome.
However, most people who post vacation pix
don't look at things like a squinch.
So, I had to go off to Ravenna and take pictures myself!
They turned out rather well, considering that:
1) I didn't have a specialized zoom lens and
2) no tripods were allowed in San Vitale.

Ravenna: Galla Placidia's Mausoleum

Now that I'm home from Italy and back in the land of boring winter,
I am going to post some of my Italian adventures on my blog--
mostly as pictures.
I will be focusing especially on monuments that I teach.
It can be really hard to get high quality, high resolution photos
without copyright problems,
from internet sources.
So-- I'm using these in my class,
and maybe some other instructor will be able to find them useful too.
This is the late Roman mausoleum
of Galla Placidia,
an imperial Roman lady who had a lot of ruling power,
and who has a gorgeous (if small)
tomb building next to a now-ruined basilica,
and the larger, later, famous church of San Vitale.
I love the mosaics, especially Christ as the Good Shepherd,
the apostles and doves,
and the alabaster window panes.