Monthly Archives: March 2012

Weekly Photo Challenge: Arranged

By Vladimir Brezina

This week’s Photo Challenge is Arranged: “… find something in your environment which was arranged by a human hand …”

Hmmm…. how about a human hand arranged?

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Performing for a Cast of Thousands

By Johna Till Johnson

I’ve got great genes. No, make that fantastic genes.

Multiple grandparents and their siblings have lived well into their 90s (and a few into their 100s). And they continued having interesting adventures throughout their lives.

True to that tradition, my (then) 83-year-old mother, Mary Louise Till, and I went on a trip to the Arctic last summer. Thanks to good timing and the skill of our ship’s captain, we were able to crunch through the Arctic ice to north of 86 degrees latitude. (No, I’m not exaggerating—we were roughly 500 miles from the North Pole. And yes, I really will write up this adventure!)

More recently, my mother had an adventure closer to home: Performing  this past Monday for approximately 10,000 people in Corpus Christi, Texas, for the Diocese Centennial Mass.

Here’s a short news video about the performance—it’s pretty exciting! (There’s about 5 seconds of advertising preceding it.)

My mother is a second alto in the Corpus Christi Cathedral  Choir, a surprisingly excellent adult choir directed by Lee Gwozdz, Corpus Christi Cathedral’s world-class choir director. (It’s a musical family: Lee’s brother, Eugene Gwozdz, has directed  the musical “Annie” on Broadway and appears currently on Broadway as musical director/accompanist for “At This Performance”.)

Here’s an earlier video of the choir performing. My mother appears in the upper right at 0:29, wearing glasses and bobbing her head enthusiastically. You can see her through 0:50.

The Diocese Centennial Mass was a celebration of Corpus Christi’s 100th year as a Catholic Diocese. Held in the Corpus Christi Cathedral, the mass featured 40 bishops,  3 archbishops, 300 priests, and a keynote by New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan.  (My mother says Cardinal Dolan’s speech was rather pedestrian. Compared to the musical accompaniment, I’m sure it was!)

Not too many of us ever perform for a cast of thousands—much less in our 80s.  Congratulations, mums!

Kayak Silly

By Johna Till Johnson

"You're gonna put your BUTT into my MOUTH?!?!"

Courtesy of Dan Kalman (caption mine).

Putting the “Fun” Back Into Fundamentals: Sweetwater Kayak Symposium 2012, Part Two

By Johna Till Johnson

A short while ago I wrote about the first two days of my experience at this year’s Sweetwater Kayak Symposium in Florida. You can read about it here, but in sum: I learned more than I ever imagined, particularly about the “feel” of handling a kayak. Here’s what happened on the last day:

On the third and (for me) last day of the Symposium, we met up at the Weedon Island Preserve, a nature preserve just outside St. Petersburg. My paddling plans for the day included two courses: “Bracing, Sculling, and Rolling” in the morning,  then “Fun with Foster”, a mysterious course that course leader and kayaking legend Nigel Foster bills as “all the stuff the BCU doesn’t want you to know”. (There’s quite a lot. Keep reading!)

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A Quiet Springtime Manhattan Circumnavigation

By Vladimir Brezina

Sunday, March 25, 2012

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Through

By Vladimir Brezina

This week’s Photo Challenge is Through.

Crowds of photographers gather as the magic moment draws near. What are they waiting for?

It’s Manhattanhenge! On two days in the year, for a brief moment before it sinks below the horizon, the setting sun is perfectly aligned with the cross-streets of Manhattan’s rectangular street grid and sends its last golden rays straight through its canyons…

These photos are from the first occurrence of Manhattanhenge last year, on May 30, 2011. More photos are here and here.

This year’s magic days will be May 29 and July 12!


Some other nice interpretations of “Through” I’ve seen:

Versatile Blogger Award, Take Two

By Vladimir Brezina and Johna Till Johnson

We are greatly honored to receive the Versatile Blogger Award again, this time from two fellow bloggers, Rola Yousef of A Thing of Beauty and Marge Springett of MJ Springett, Nature Photographer. Thank you both so much!

Amusingly enough, before Marge Springett nominated us, we were going to nominate her. But she got her blow in first…

The first time we received the Versatile Blogger Award, back in January, we wrote quite an elaborate post satisfying the various requirements of the award. So here we’ll go straight on to what we take to be the main purpose of the award: to draw the attention of a wider audience to those blogs that have drawn our attention. We pass the Versatile Blogger Award on to this fresh crop of blogs that we’ve come to admire and look forward to reading recently:

Most of these are photography blogs, delivering beautiful and creative photos to us each and every day!

The last two blogs are from Johna’s list of “health and fitness” blogs that she follows on a semi-regular basis.

Peter Attia is an MD and serious geek who has carefully documented his physiological and performance changes (he’s a distance swimmer) on a low-carb diet. (Check out the story of how he used calculus to compute the percentage of body-fat he’d have to decrease to in order to shrink his waist by a couple of inches… you can see the appeal!)

Skwigg is a cheerful, intrepid omnivore who chronicles her experiences with various fitness regimes, and isn’t above showing workout photos of herself with her cat. (Note: Skwigg actually does get some sponsorship for her site, so she’s a semi-pro blogger. But still quite versatile!)

Please let us know if you’d like to see more on health-and-fitness topics: we’re happy to oblige.

Enjoy the links, and Happy Spring!

Happy Spring!

By Vladimir Brezina

The Spring Equinox occurred early this morning. We are now officially—although it’s felt like it already for weeks—into Spring!

Here’s a preview of coming attractions. These photos were taken in New York’s Central Park in 2007… in late April. This year we’ll probably see these fruit trees bloom in a week or two—almost a month earlier!

More photos from Spring 2007 are here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unusual

By Vladimir Brezina

This week’s Photo Challenge is Unusual.

Even for jaded New Yorkers, this picnic in the park was perhaps just a bit unusual…

(Click on the photo to enlarge)

Update March 18, 2012:

OK, I confess. This wasn’t quite an ordinary picnic in the park, even a New York City park…

It was a performance piece called Imaginary Picnic by the Push Pops that we saw at last year’s Figment NYC, a two-day art festival held in June on Governors Island in New York Harbor. We wrote about our visit here, and more photos—some of them likewise a bit unusual!—are here.

Unfortunately, it rained pretty steadily the whole day of our visit. Consequently the Imaginary Picnic was a bit wilted. But its full glory can be seen here:

To see, and photograph, more unusual scenes, visit this year’s Figment! Figment NYC 2012 will be held, again on Governors Island, on June 9-10. We’ll see you there!


Some other nice interpretations of “Unusual” that I’ve seen:

Edging Into Artistry: Sweetwater Kayak Symposium 2012, Part One

By Johna Till Johnson

Note: What follows gets a bit “kayak geeky”. I’ve tried to keep things straightforward and ensure the story appeals to non-paddlers as well. But just in case I didn’t entirely succeed, consider yourselves warned!

Sometimes it’s best not to know what you’re getting yourself into.

If I’d truly understood the nature of kayaking in the beginning, I doubt I’d ever have taken up the sport.

When I first started paddling, I assumed, like most people do, that the primary requirement was upper-body strength.  And like most people, I was afraid of falling in. Not of actually being in the water (I’m a strong swimmer), but the falling-in part. Or more accurately, the loss of control and panic that hits when your boat tips over and begins to dump you into the drink.

So I figured the two main reasons for taking kayak lessons would be to build up my upper-body strength, and to learn how to keep the boat from ever tipping over.

Anyone who’s paddled for a while is already chuckling, because I couldn’t have been more wrong on those two points.

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