Category: Saint Louis

On Being Primed For Worse

| November 25, 2014 | 1 Reply
On Being Primed For Worse

Haven’t we been gearing up for some kind of O.K. Corral showdown pretty much since the announcement that there would be a grand jury? Haven’t we been gearing up for some kind of O.K. Corral showdown pretty much since the announcement that there would be a grand jury? Sure looked like we expected what we got. [More . . . ]

Share

Read More

Myths of Authority in Practice

| August 22, 2014 | 2 Replies
Myths of Authority in Practice

I’ve been trying to come to terms with Ferguson since it began. The shooting of Michael Browne sparked a response that surprised many people and the counter responses have been equally surprising among certain people, not so much among certain others. Every time I start to write something I find what I intended to say had already been said better elsewhere. [More . . . ]

Share

Read More

Shooting Fireworks

| July 4, 2013 | Reply

In the past few months, I’ve graduated to a DSLR, a Canon 7D. Since then, I’ve been amazed at how much time one could put into understanding how to make good use of such a high-quality camera. The path I’ve been taking is to simply try one thing at a time. Tonight, it was a good time to learn how to shoot fireworks. I would have liked to have shot from several vantage points, but it would have been difficult to move around once it got dark in the thick crowd at the St. Louis riverfront. There are many people with ideas out there on how to set one’s camera. I started out at f11, 100 ISO and bulb shutter, making use of a remote shutter cable. I eventually moved to f8, in order to brighten up the arch and buildings better. I made a mistake by failing to set focus to manual focus, which caused the camera to struggle and delay on many shots, because it had a difficult time focusing on the darkness, which was when I often tried to open the shutter–I didn’t realize that mistake until after the fireworks show.

It’s great fun trying to anticipate the best way to compose these shots. Post-shooting production was rather minimal. Mostly I used Lightroom 4 to nudge down the highlights and the darks, plus add a bit of clarity. There are no filters on any of these 4 shots, though, even though they look a bit surreal. Click on the images for a higher res view.

IMG_2915 Fireworks - Eads
IMG_2886 Fireworks - Eads

IMG_2877 Fireworks - Eads

IMG_2892 Fireworks - Eads

Share

Read More

Meet the protesters of Occupy St. Louis – October 14, 2011

| October 15, 2011 | 10 Replies

I occasionally listen to Rush Limbaugh’s radio show because I consider it important to understand how it is that my views differ from those of people who oppose my views. Two days ago, I listened to Limbaugh bloviating about the people who are participating in the Occupy Protests springing up all over the United States.  By  some reports, there are more than 1,000 such protests ongoing, and they are actually occurring all over the world.   Limbaugh announced, without hesitation, that these protesters are mostly unemployed, lazy, dirty, amoral, socially irresponsible and ignorant young people. Those who rely on Rush Limbaugh for their facts might thus be highly likely to object to these protests (including Occupy Wall Street) based on Limbaugh’s description of the protesters.  But is the description he gave to his many (though dwindling number of) listeners accurate?  I had an opportunity to check this yesterday at the Occupy St. Louis protest in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri.

Over the past few days, I’ve been quite occupied at my day job, and it was only while walking back to my law office from the federal courthouse at 4 pm yesterday that I spotted an organized march coming down Market Street in downtown St. Louis.  I would estimate that there were almost 1,000 people marching.  I didn’t have my video camera with me, but I did have my Canon S95 pocket camera, so I got to work taking hand-held video and still shots of the protesters.  Here’s the finished product, which will allow you to actually meet the types of people who are participating in the Saint Louis Occupy protest.  You can now be your own judge of what these protesters are like:

As you can see from the parade route pans and the interviews, none of these people fit the description given by Rush Limbaugh.  Off camera, I asked most of the protesters about their “day jobs,” and all of them indicated that they were gainfully employed, and in a wide variety of challenging fields.   These “young” protesters of Occupy St. Louis ranged in age from 20’s to their 80’s.   The on-camera statements of the people I interviewed show that they are well-informed, thoughtful, highly articulate and good-hearted.  Many of the people I spoke with indicated that they are not going away.  They have been waiting for a good time and place to express their deep concerns about the way our government works, and they have finally found what they’ve been looking for.

In case anyone is concerned that I intentionally skewed my sampling regarding who I interviewed, this was my method:  I simply walked up to someone nearby and asked whether he or she would be willing to give a short statement about why they were attending the protest.   I approached 12 people.  One woman sympathetic to the protest apologized and said she couldn’t talk on camera because she was a member of the news media. One man said that he supported the protest, but he’d rather not go on camera.  Another man said he had never been part of a protest before, but he read about this protest recently and then said to himself, “Yeah, these people are right on these issues.”   The other nine people I approached agreed to give statements on camera.  I’d like to thank each of these folks for taking the time to talk (I’ve listed their names in the order in which they appear in my video):

  • Al Vitale
  • Fred Raines (a retired economics professor, who said that he compiled the statistics displayed on one of the signs appearing on the video)
  • Apollonia Childs
  • Chrissy Kirchhoefer
  • Curtis Roberts
  • Michel Kiepe
  • Jeff Schaefer
  • Matt Ankney, and
  • Frances Madeson

Based on the above video, there is no lack of intellectual moorings for this protest. The focus is that our government, including politicians of both major parties, has been substantially bought by big business, and many destructive things are flowing from the consequent misuse of government power.

About a dozen protesters have have formed a camp in Kiener Plaza, a public gathering spot across the street from the towering downtown headquarters of Bank of America. I was told by several protesters that some of the camping protesters had been evicted from the camp over the past week, but that the intent is nonetheless maintain a presence in Kiener Plaza indefinitely. The Bank of America building has been the geographical focus of other recent protests, including this one in August, 2011. (A payday loan protest by a group called GRO occurred at this same bank last year–here’s video).  I should note that most of the people who work in the huge Bank of America building work for companies other than the Bank of America, yet the building remains a symbol of what has gone so very wrong with the political process.

I’d also like to mention that the St. Louis Police, who were out in the hundreds, were courteous and professional.   The protesters were there merely to protest-to get their message out.  There were no untoward incidents that would distract from the central message of the protests.

For more on yesterday’s protest, see this description by St. Louis blogger Gloria Bilchik at Occasional Planet. See also, this post by another St. Louis blogger, Adam Shriver at St. Louis Activist Hub.

Share

Read More

Racist Reflex or ?

| April 14, 2011 | 3 Replies
Racist Reflex or ?

A 21 year-old man was released without charges after being arrested near the Delmar Loop MetroLink in St. Louis on Saturday. The police officer who arrested the 21-year-old experienced a minor head injury. The St. Louis Dispatch and KMOV report that the officer was breaking up a fight that allegedly drew a crowd of between 50 and 100 people, including many teenagers.

In response to the “incident” and complaints that teens who are “not from University City,” are “wandering,” “roaming” and “brushing up against customers,” along the Delmar Loop, a Tuesday meeting was called between Delmar Loop business owners, representatives from Mayor Slay’s office, University City officials and representatives of Washington University. (Washington University’s Office of General Counsel denied any involvement in this meeting).

Several proposals emerged from the meeting. These include “lowering the city’s curfew to 6 p.m.,” rounding up teenagers to “let them sit in a paddy wagon for three hours,” adding a police substation to process them and “closing the Loop’s MetroLink station early on Fridays and Saturdays.” To curb the influx of “unruly” young adults, the University City manager promised “active enforcement of all ordinances.”

Share

Read More

It’s time for church . . . er, I mean baseball

| April 3, 2011 | 8 Replies
It’s time for church . . . er, I mean baseball

I live in St. Louis, where major league baseball is taken seriously. After I was invited to attend the opening day game as part of a business function this year, and I attended as an amateur anthropologist, not as a baseball fan.

A bit of background: About 15 years ago I was an avid sports fan. I followed all of the St. Louis professional teams. I watched some games on television, attended occasional games and read the sports page almost every day. For reasons I don’t really understand, I decided to stop being a sport fan. I was frustrated that I didn’t have enough time to get to attend my alleged priorities, which included trying to become a writer and trying to achieve a deeper understanding of cognitive science. What could I do to make room for those things in my schedule?

Well . . . I was spending about 10 hours per week being a sports fan. If I went cold turkey, I’d have about 500 hours more per week to do other things. That’s the equivalent of 12 weeks of vacation. So I did go cold turkey (interrupted only to follow the St. Louis Rams for a few years while they were Superbowl winners and contenders). For the most part, I’ve successfully cultivated a high level of apathy for professional sports. I don’t feel any compulsion to spend any money on tickets or to ever to read the sports page. I really don’t care whether the team won last night. My experiment was a success. A bonus is that I now have a privileged perch from which to appreciate the extraordinary lengths to which sports fans spend their money and invest their time in order to root for their teams.

In St. Louis, rooting for the Cardinals is far more than entertainment. It’s much like a religion. Check out the schedule above (you can click on any of the images for an enlarged view). It is the official list of 162 holy days of 2011. I know many people who plan their schedules around the baseball calendar.

Being knowledgeable about the local sports teams is also the preferred ice-breaker at many business gatherings: “So, do you think LaRussa left the starting pitcher in for too many innings last night?” Sorry, but I don’t know. Sometimes I admit, “I gave up sports.” Inevitably jaws drop. I don’t dare follow up by blunting saying, “I wanted to live more in the real world.

Therefore, a few days ago I attended the St. Louis Cardinal’s opening day game as a member of an out-group. I was much worse than a luke-warm fan. You see, if you offered most sports fans 12 extra weeks of vacation, they’d spend it watching more sports and thinking more about sports. It wouldn’t occur to them that they should go cold turkey and pursue anything else. What else is there of equal of greater importance?

In this religion of St. Louis Baseball, Albert Pujols is the Savior. Incredible amounts of ink have been spilled over whether this man will sign a new contract with St. Louis. People relate to Albert; apparently, they think that they are Albert. If you attend a St. Louis Cardinal Baseball game, you will see many hundreds of people wearing Pujols jerseys, and most of them are adults. What are they thinking? Are they thinking “I’m like Pujols because I am wearing his jersey”? Are they thinking “I want people to think I’m a bit like Albert Pujols when I wear his Jersey”? Are they thinking that they somehow get credit for Pujols’ accomplishments because they are wearing his jersey? Even after leaving the stadium, you will see Pujols jerseys all over town (I spotted the one to the right at a grocery store after the game). Playing into the role of “Savior,” Albert has an interest in a local Christian radio station.

[And do check out the image to the left, where I caught Pujols having a chat with Pujols.] The physical church is Busch Stadium, of course. I see people staring at it even in the dead of winter. People have been known to get married at Busch Stadium (there was a wedding in the snow last week). You would have been amazed to hear how the team “needed” a new stadium a few years ago. When something is considered “sacred” there is no rational bargaining. The owners said we need it, so we go the new stadium.

There are sacred food items in the religion of baseball. I do believe that nachos serve as the bread of the religion of baseball, and the “wine” is obviously beer. At opening day, I was greeting with twin 30-foot bottles of beer.

But it can’t be a religion because the fans are really attending those games because they are serious about baseball, right? Well I’m not so certain of that. If you had to guess what people do the most of at ball games, it would either be eat and drink, or socialize. The food stands are ubiquitous, and I would estimate that far more than half of the people attending aren’t concentrating on the game much at all. How else can you explain that thousands of people are leaving a close game in the 7th or 8th inning? They paid $50/seat and they aren’t going to watch every pitch?

It seems as though most people go to the ball game to bask in the crowd, and to display their loyalty. When you are surrounded by 50,000 people, regardless of what is going on, it does seem important. And that is very much how it is in most churches.

Share

Read More

Left Behind by Snowmageddon

| February 2, 2011 | 1 Reply
Left Behind by Snowmageddon

There was recently a big winter storm across the Central and North Eastern U.S. In my local town, it had the potential of exceeding the record one-day snowfall set 29 years ago. All the local news stations talked about the major storm approaching. Thunder snow, a rare occurrence here, was predicted. Stores were stripped of snow shovels, salt, water softener (salt), milk and bread.The governor called in the National Guard, and all the utility and road crews were on high alert.

When the freezing rain started on Monday, the media warned people to stay home for the next day or two as the storm passed over. I grew excited. The little kid in me was hoping for a big snow. But our town was right on the freezing line. Just south of us, there is rain. North of us, snow. The band from rain through freezing rain, sleet, snow, up to full blizzard is only a hundred miles wide. As Tuesday dawned, we had a glaze of ice, and sleet was falling. I woke early and spent a couple of hours learning how to hack my new super-zoom camera to force it to take a time lapse picture series. I hoped to make a nice video of the yard disappearing under a foot or more of snow.

So I set up my camera and started it early in the morning, when there was still just a glaze of ice on the path and plants. The day wore on. At noon I it was still just sleeting. I changed the batteries in the camera. By sunset, there was just a couple of inches of sleet. It was fun to walk on top of what looks like snow. But the yard is still visible. Had the freeze line been a couple of dozen miles farther south, that thin layer of sleet would have been about a foot of snow. What a gyp! So I let the camera run overnight, in hopes that we’d get some snow on the few inches of ice.

But as Wednesday dawned, Groundhog Day, there was only a little more snow. Sure, the roads are all iced over, and icicles hang from everything. But this is a far cry from what the hue and cry of the media had us expecting. Granted, the next county over (and half the state) is snowed in. Interstate 70 is closed between the Saint Louis metro area and Kansas. And the temperature will drop below zero (-18°C) tonight.

But how did we get Left Behind from the transcendental fairyland, a heaven of deep snow? Obviously we hadn’t prayed hard enough to the God of the clean white snowy world above to deliver us from mundane weather. Or we didn’t believe sincerely enough in the snowy salvation offered by his half-breed son, Jack Frost. Maybe some around us are heretical worshipers of the Daily Commute, and counteracted our prayers.

So we beseech those who were called up to the snowy realm to share with us their good fortune. Show us unworthy shovelers of sleet what the True Light of real snow is like. Maybe it’s not too late.

Share

Read More

Eagle days on the Mississippi River

| January 18, 2011 | Reply
Eagle days on the Mississippi River

Although St. Louis was founded as a fur trading post, it is no longer well known as a place to view wildlife. But you can still spot wildlife. Yesterday my family traveled about 10 miles north of downtown St. Louis to the “Old Chain of Rocks Bridge,” which spans the Mississippi River.

The bridge was for a time the route used by U.S. Route 66 to cross over the Mississippi. Its most notable feature is a 22-degree bend occurring at the middle of the crossing, necessary to allow river traffic to have uninterrupted navigation on the river. Originally a motor route, the bridge now carries walking and biking trails over the river. The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.

I do need to add that this was a brilliant use of an old narrow bridge. Click on the thumbnail for a panorama showing the view south from the bridge (Downtown St. Louis is on the horizon to the left). The bridge is located in a big wide relatively quiet area (except for one other bridge that runs parallel), where one can enjoy the Mississippi River and the surrounding undeveloped areas, just north of the Chain of Rocks rapids and a bit south of the confluence between the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. For one weekend each year, this wonderful bridge is featured as the venue for Eagle Days, a prime spot for viewing American bald Eagles. This is rather cool, to be able to spot wild bald eagles right in the heart of the Midwest. Here’s a bit more description of their migration relevant to the Mississippi.

[More . . . ]

Share

Read More

Arch photos

| April 28, 2010 | Reply
Arch photos

I love photographing the most famous monument in St. Louis, Missouri, the Gateway Arch. I’ve spent time at the riverfront downtown St. Louis for the past two nights. Last night, it was for a business meeting, where I shot this panorama (click the photos for a expanded views):

arch-panorama-2

Tonight, my wife and daughters returned to watch the sun set–the river water was high, making the river look much larger than usual. I focused on the sky, though, including this vertical panorama:

stretched-archIt was taken by standing directly under the arch and shooting up. For a thicker version of the arch, move up to within 30 feet of one of the legs and you’ll end up with this:

thick-legAs the sun went down, I shot this silhouette of the south leg and some of the visitors.

south-legShortly thereafter, while walking back to our car, my 11-year old daughter JuJu was struck by the color of the river bank lit by the streetlight. That image is the somewhat eerie ending to this little gallery:

streetlightNone of this is difficult to do; it’s all there for the taking. BTW, I used a consumer grade camera (the Canon Powershot SD1100IS).

For those interested in the geometry of the arch, Wikipedia offers this:

This hyperbolic cosine function describes the shape of a catenary. A chain that supports only its own weight forms a catenary; in this configuration, the chain is strictly in tension. An inverted catenary arch that supports only its own weight is strictly in compression, with no shear. The gateway arch itself is not a catenary, but a more general curve called a flattened catenary of the form y=Acosh(Bx); a catenary is the special case when AB=1. While a catenary is the ideal shape for an arch of constant thickness, the gateway arch does not have constant thickness as it is narrower near the top.

Share

Read More