Category Archives: Culture

Park Bench Sentiments

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

Central Park benchesMany benches in NYC’s Central Park bear engraved metal plaques. For a donation, one can endow a bench as part of the Park’s “Adopt-a-Bench” program.

As you might imagine, the engravings are sometimes sentimental, and often heartbreaking. Too often, they memorialize a loved one who’s clearly still missed by grieving friends and relatives: “To my beloved…”, “In memory of my dear…”

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And then there’s this one:

"So far so good"

It made us laugh. And agree that it’s something to be grateful for!

I Used to Hate Spring…

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

April puddle

April is the cruelest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring
dull roots with spring rain.

—T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

I’ll admit it: I used to hate Spring.

Why “admit”? Because from what I can tell, most people are thrilled by lengthening days, soft fragrant breezes, and the sight of new flowers pushing up through the fresh grass.

In New York, Springtime is especially noteworthy. Everyone takes to the parks. Lovers canoodle. Pets frolic. And we walk around with goofy smiles and say unexpected things to each other, like “Please,” and “Thank you” and “After you!”

So what’s not to love?

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More Fun with Easter Eggs

By Vladimir Brezina

The solid colors of the PAAS Easter-egg coloring kit, while very suitable for serious scientific investigation, were really just a little too plain by themselves. Fortunately the kit also included four paint-on colors and a couple of brushes. So I had a go.

Now, I can draw a stork carrying a baby as well as anyone… on a piece of dry, flat paper. But it wasn’t quite so easy on the wet, slippery egg. The paint was taking forever to dry, and guests were coming in an hour…

This is what I ended up with:

Painted Easter eggs 1 Painted Easter eggs 2 Painted Easter eggs 3

As you can see, I somehow gravitated toward fertility symbols—funny how that happens at Easter with the onset of Spring. I did think of including a few goats and maybe the great god Pan—or just naked female figures—but there wasn’t time. Maybe next year!

But I Saw It on the Internet…

By Vladimir Brezina

The Internet instantaneously connects many millions of people in all parts of the world into a vast network. And just like a natural ecosystem, it can serve up unexpected storms at any moment.

Recently we experienced a minor storm.

One day, Wind Against Current began to get thousands of hits on this old picture:

Two suns over New Jersey

Over a day and a half, there were over 10,000 hits.

And they all came from a country where until then we hadn’t had many readers: Malaysia.

Johna said, “It’s an attack!” But closer inspection (for which WordPress has quite good tools) showed that all the hits came from a number of websites (such as this one) that published and republished a post that included our picture (and linked back to our blog, which was very nice of them!).

Things became clearer when we saw that many other Malaysian visitors came after searching for “2 suns” or something similar. And I had just happened to title this picture “Two suns over New Jersey”…

Some time later we received the following message from a stranger: “Your pic is making round on FB [Facebook] with Following details – “TWO SUNS AT A TIME in USA——The Miracle Has Happened Today USA And CANADA Saw Two Suns. This Is Called As Hunters Moon. Due To Change Of Orbit The Sun Sets And Moon Rises At the Same Time With Both Being Opposite To Each Other At A Particular Angle Or Degree Moon Reflects The Sun So Bright That It Almost Feel Like Another Sun…. Effects Stay For Couple Of Days…”

The stranger who sent us this message added: “LOL”. LOL indeed. Needless to say, this makes no sense whatever, and our picture just shows the sun’s rays reflected off the glass wall of a building…

But now we have some small insight into how the sausages of the Internet are made!

Halloween Postmortem, Part II

By Vladimir Brezina and Johna Till Johnson

Even skeletons check their cell phonesThis year’s Halloween decorations were plenty scary. But in our neighborhood, they’re just the backdrop: Every year, Carnegie Hill Neighbors, the local neighborhood association, puts on “Spooktacular”, a Halloween block party that features entertainers (including a lively DJ/MC playing dance music) and a costume contest—and of course trick-or-treating, with lots, and lots, and LOTS of candy!

Whole families show up in costume, including mother, father, kids, pets, and—this being the Upper East Side—nanny. (For those who don’t know, the Upper East Side is home to financiers, top lawyers, and other Masters of the Universe.)

The party is open to the whole neighborhood, and it seems to be getting bigger, and better, each year.  (Here are the photos from 2011, 2012, and 2013.)

Looking left... and looking rightVlad in the crowd

The photographer stalking his prey (while being stalked by a giant floating spider)…

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… and here are some of his photos:

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Halloween Postmortem, Part I

By Vladimir Brezina

Halloween decorations 2015 4Halloween 2015 is over—and it was quite a party! So much so that I didn’t even have time to post my photos of the Halloween decorations—if that is the right word—seen this year in our neighborhood on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Some of the old favorites made return appearances (here are the photos from 2011, 2012, and 2013), but there were many imaginative, even artistic, new additions. Many of the residents of our neighborhood obviously feel a strong need to keep up with the Joneses, no effort or expense spared, in this department as in many others… The huge crowds of trick-or-treating kids loved it all, of course!

(click on any photo to start slideshow)

Even more photos are here.

Part II, with photos of the costumes at the Halloween block party itself, is coming soon!

Frame

By Vladimir Brezina

For this week’s travel-themed photo challenge, Ailsa wants Frame.

Frame

Someone thought this was a good idea for a costume for our annual Halloween block party in 2011. What were they thinking?

We’ll see what tonight’s party brings. Happy Halloween!