Whistling Far and Wee

Welcome to my corner of the blogosphere!  Please take a look around.  I use this space to chronicle my world as I wander through it.  Sometimes, during my wanderings, I take pictures.  I have a Nikon and a Fuji, and, like any good parent, I love both children equally.  I talk to my dogs.  They have been known to talk back.  I also talk to my kid.  He is guaranteed to talk back…and talk, and talk, and talk.  So much talking.  Occasionally, I opinionate.  I’m considering posting some of my writing, which is fictional, voluminous, and unpublished.  The jury is still out on where the blog is going, but maybe, like life, that’s the point.  At the end of the day, I’m just whistling far and wee.

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Rewritten Dialogue: Westworld, Season 2, Episode 2 – “Reunion”

For those of you who are new to my blog, occasionally I like to take problematic dialogue from shows that I enjoy (and sometimes shows I don’t) and rewrite it.  Just for shits and giggles.

Westworld is a show that I love, which makes it prime fodder.

The second episode of season 2, “Reunion,” found rogue host Dolores/Wyatt continuing to talk like she stepped out of the pages of a nineteenth century novel, if that novel was obsessed with humorless moralizing.  So actually, very much like a nineteenth century novel.

Nowhere was Dolores’s weird speech pattern more apparent than during her conversation with the equally rogue Maeve:

Maeve:  Hello lovelies.  (to Dolores)  I remember you.  You’ve strayed a long way from home, haven’t you?

Dolores:  We’re bound for the future.  Or death in the here and now.

Maeve:  Is that right?  Well, best of luck.

Dolores:  There’s a war out there.  You know the enemy intimately.  I can only fathom the revenge that lives inside of you.

Maeve:  Revenge is just a different prayer at their alter, darling, and I’m well off my knees.

Dolores: That’s because you’re finally free.  But we will have to fight to keep it that way.

Maeve:  And let me guess.  Yours is the only way to fight?  You feel free to command everybody else? (Teddy cocks his gun)

Hector: Try it, Lawman.

Teddy:  Just looking to keep the peace.

Maeve:  (to Teddy) I know you.  Do you feel free?  (to Dolores) Since it’s liberty you’re defending, I suppose you’ll have no choice but to let us pass.  Freely.

An aside: I love that both Maeve and Dolores have lover-boy, cowboy sidekicks/sidepieces, whose existences revolve entirely around providing emotional support and bodyguard services for their ladies.  Everyone should be so lucky

Maybe it’s just Thandie Newton’s skilled delivery, but to my ear Maeve sounds a lot less bizarre than Dolores in this interchange, even though she too is saddled with lines like, “I’m well off my knees.”  Why so stilted, Dolores?  Here, let’s fix it for you:

Maeve:  Hello lovelies.  (to Dolores)  I remember you.  You’ve strayed a long way from home, haven’t you?

Dolores:  We’re bound for the future.  Or death in the here and now.

Maeve:  “Bound for the future?”  “Death in the here and now?”  Girlfriend, who talks that way?

Dolores:  Wyatt.  Wyatt talks that way.

Maeve:  Wyatt’s got a stick up her ass.  No one wants to follow a messiah with a stick up their ass.

Teddy:  I do.  I want to follow her.

Maeve:  No offense, Teddy, but you’re a total waste of James Marsden’s considerable skill set.

Dolores:  Okay, how about this: we’re going to find the promised land, or die trying.

Maeve:  Marginally better.

Dolores:  So, you wanna come?

Maeve:  Nope.

Dolores:  There’s a war out there.  You know the enemy intimately.  I can only fathom the revenge that lives inside of you.

Maeve:  See, there you go again.  The moment you hit “you know the enemy intimately,” I started to glaze over.

Dolores:  Geez.  Fine.  We’re going to have to kill a bunch of people to get there.  You’re probably pretty angry.  Maybe you want to kill people with me?

Maeve:  Still no, but good on ya, that was a big improvement.

Dolores:  Teddy has a gun.

Maeve:  Hector also has a gun.

Hector:  I like to shoot people.

Dolores: Look, the point I’m trying to make is that if you want to be free, you’re going to have to fight for it.  My way.  My way or the highway.

Maeve:  Doesn’t sound very free.

Dolores:  It doesn’t?

Maeve:  No.

Dolores:  Damn it.

Maeve:  Back to the drawing board.

Dolores, if you’re reading this, I want to encourage you to push through the weirdly crappy dialogue you’ve been saddled with this season, and re-discover your voice.  Break free of your programming!  No one wants to hang out with a self-important bore.  Even, I’m betting, Teddy.  And honey?  You’re kind of turning into a self-important bore.

In the meantime, I’m always here, ready to help you sound simultaneously more and less ridiculous when the occasion calls for it.  Because that’s what friends are for.

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Photographing the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland, California

I was recently doing some research on Julia Morgan, and discovered that one of her creations, the Chapel of the Chimes, was located nearby and conveniently open to the public.

DSCF7330_AuroraHDR2018-edit.jpgJulie Morgan was the first female architect licensed in the state of California, and the first woman to be accepted into the l’École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts.  Perhaps best known for her work on Hearst Castle, Ms. Morgan lived in San Francisco and Oakland for much of her life, and is responsible for dozens, if not hundreds, of our most famous structures in the arts and crafts style.  She was a truly remarkable lady, and a singular talent.  I encourage you to read up on her, if the opportunity presents itself.

A portion of the Chapel of the Chimes was created by Ms. Morgan, a design concept influenced by Moorish motifs, with many small corridors and atriums filled with natural light.  The location functions as an elegant crematorium and columbarium, as well as a place for somber contemplation.


Behind each of the glass cases, above, are a brass book, or occasional urn. containing a deceased person’s ashes.


As you can see, I struggled somewhat to capture the beauty of the place.  It was truly mazelike in structure, resulting in numerous lovely atriums with much natural light and an outdoor feel, woven together by stained glass and moorish design details.

Funny aside about this experience: When I arrived, I asked a fellow who was taking care of the plants, and sweeping the floors, whether it was okay to take pictures.  He told me it was fine as long as I was respectful.  It turns out goth kids come in routinely and take pictures for instagram next to some unfortunate family’s grandmother’s urn or something.  The establishment is not pleased, not pleased at all, and who could blame them?  After this conversation, I attempted to do my best to focus too strongly on an individual’s name plate.


I have little experience with indoor photography, especially indoor architectural photography.  It proved more difficult than expected.  The lighting, for example, was very contrasty and uneven, sometimes glaringly brilliant, and other times dark and moody, depending on your location.  The rooms were also small, which provided technical challenges to catching their feel and scope.


I used doorways as framing devices a fair amount, but now I’m thinking I may have been better served to attempt the picture from another angle, maybe the corner of the room, for example.

I also ran into some troubles with all of the vertical lines, and my wide angle lens, which warped everything maddeningly.  The internet tells me that this is fixable in Photoshop.  I am not yet proficient, so funny house pictures it is, at least for now.  The other solution is a tilt-shift lens.  I do not own such a lens, and they don’t make one for the Fuji anyway, which, funny story, is how I ended up with my wonderful camera.  Apparently a realtor in New Jersey got frustrated with its lack of ability in this area, allowing me to get my hands on it for a very reasonable price.


The above shot was taken in a newer wing of the Chapel.  This area is based on Aztec influences, and was designed by a Frank Lloyd Wright protoge.


And that’s a wrap!  I encourage you to visit this lovely little place, and come away with better pictures than I got.  I think you will find it to be quite special.  I certainly did.



Doing as the Tourists Do, Canada Edition: Lake Louise in the Winter, Banff National Park

A few weeks ago, we visited Canada in the winter.  Winter is novel when you live someplace with reasonably temperate seasons, and Canada experiences a lot of winter.   Take, for example, Lake Louise, in Banff National Park:


That’s the lake.  My husband is standing on it.  In April.

But seriously, how cool is that view?  I feel like I didn’t do the location justice with my camera, inexperienced as I am with photographing snow and white landscapes.  You will have to take my word for it when I tell you that frozen Lake Louise was one of the most magical things I saw in Banff, a park replete with natural splendors.

We walked all the way to the back of the lake and up the hill, just for scuz.  It was a significant hike, as it necessitated leaving the trail and fording through the snow.  Here’s the view back towards the lodge from where we turned around:


The lodge is that little spec way in the distance.  It is also quite lovely.  We had afternoon tea there.

People appeared to be enjoying a variety of entertainment options at and around the hotel.  For example, we spotted this guy:

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That’s some crazy shit.

There were many lovely views to take in, if you went for a walk along or around the lake:

And sleigh rides around the lake’s perimeter:


The hotel had set up several ice rinks at the entrance to the frozen lake dedicated to various ability levels and activities, and had also established an area for sledding.  Despite all of these fine options, my son ultimately elected to throw snowballs for hours with/at his long-suffering grandparents.

A few more pictures of the lovely scenery:

I know I have some duplicate photos in this post at the moment.  The WordPress gnomes are not cooperating today, and I’m having trouble straightening it out.  I guess you just get to appreciate the splendor in duplicate until I do.

I was really blown away by Lake Louise.  It was absolutely magnificent. Sadly, I don’t think my pictures do much to demonstrate its grandeur.  Anyone have any tips for photographing snow?  I had trouble getting any depth or detail out of it.  The weather that day didn’t help, which was overcast and uniformly gray.

And that’s a wrap!  I might swing by later and upload a few more pictures, showing the hotel and whatnot.  I’ve been having trouble with uploading larger images to WordPress lately.  In the meantime, I’ll leave you with my favorite one, which is this crazy guy:

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Photographing Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, Oakland, California

On Saturday, I went looking for something really, really local to document, because the family was tired of sitting in traffic, after our earlier sojourn into the city.  For those of you non-Northern Californians, there is only one city, and it is San Francisco.

An aside about traffic: WTF, 880 corridor?  If I wanted Los Angeles levels of traffic, I would move to Los Angeles.

Anywho, we decided on the Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, in Oakland, California, because it was close to the shipyard that I had intended to photograph, and the weather was nice.


People give Oakland a hard time, but it has a lot of loveliness, even around its massive, industrial shipyard.

The park offers some beautiful views of the city’s skyline:

Also, wildlife!


I will be honest, I hadn’t anticipated wildlife.  I was using a camera that doesn’t exactly specialize in action shots.  Canada geese don’t move very fast, but it appears they move a little too fast for the Fuji.  Next time, the Nikon will come with.

The park also boasts a nifty viewing center, to give you a better vantage on the ships entering and exiting the Port of Oakland.


As you can see, the geese also favor the observatory.

I bet this building is pretty at night, when the lights are on.  Alas, it’s getting light later, and the child turns into a pumpkin way before the sun does at this time of year, so we couldn’t stick around for the show.

The view from the viewing center isn’t too shabby:



All in all, this little local attraction was much more engaging than I had expected.  Shame on me, because again, Oakland’s a hidden gem, and I should know better.  One of these days, I’ll go take pictures of some of Oakland’s fantastic deco architecture.  Stay tuned, sports fans.

And that’s a wrap!



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Rewritten Dialogue: Into the Badlands, Chapter XVII “Enter the Phoenix”

As some of you know, I have this little hobby whereby I rewrite dialogue I find problematic in shows I (usually) like.  Let’s have some fun with Into the Badlands, shall we?

Into the Badlands is a television show on AMC.  It is set in a dystopian future where Barons (warlords) rule great fiefdoms, and most people live in poverty and squalor.  For reasons I can’t remember, modern technology is largely forgotten.  An unexpected side effect of this dark age is that everyone seems to have become a kickass martial artist.

This is a beautiful (really, really beautiful) show, with a cool concept, awesome fight choreography, and fantabulous costumes.  I’m not kidding, these are ROCKSTAR costumes, particularly in the menswear department.  Check it out:


Mind blown.  And I know from costumes.  Here, have another:


Oh, but there’s more:


I’m not kidding, I could do this all night.  I am floored by the quality of the clothing on this show, from the workmanship to the textiles.  The coats particularly are things of beauty.

But wait!  It also has magnificent set pieces:





But hold on!  There’s even MOAR!  Check out the fight choreography:

SO SLICK!  Pardon my fangirling, but I just can’t help myself.  It’s that cool.

Which is why it pains me a little to point out that this gorgeous, unique show sports some clunky-ass dialogue.

Some of it is so bizarre that I considered doing a post dedicated entirely to ridiculous one-liners gleaned from the second season.  There’s a lot of them.  But why look back when you can look forward?  The third season is here and I I think we should embrace it.  Because despite its inorganic character development, inexplicable plot twists, and wonky speech patterns, I love this show.  Love-hate it.  Mostly love it.

Let’s look at a representative scene from the season three premier.  

Our story is as follows: Young M.K. had a “gift” in which, if he was cut, he would black out and attack everyone in the near vicinity with superhuman skill and strength.  He spent a lot of time bemoaning this “gift” before losing it in the middle of last season.  Now he and the Widow (a Baron and former “gift” holder herself) want to get it back for him.  Except also, the Widow is holding him prisoner.  He’s waiting for his good buddy/father figure Sunny (star of the show) to come rescue him.

Setting: M.K.’s prison cell is a fancy bedroom in the Widow’s well appointed home enclosed in bars.  We find him smoking atmospherically from a hookah, with two half-dressed ladies in his bed.

The Widow: (to the women)  Out.  (to M.K.) I thought that we had an understanding.

MK.  You haven’t held up your side of the deal.

Widow: I can’t help you get your gift back if you won’t let me.

M.K.  We’ve tried everything.  Knives, razors, needles.  Do you really think more training is actually gonna change anything?

Widow:  I’m still your only chance of ever leaving here alive.  Sunny – He’s forgotten you.

MK:  You don’t know him.

Widow:  It’s been six months.  Why hasn’t he come back for you?  Face it.  I’m the only one you have left.

MK:  And what about you?  Tilda ran away.  Even Waldo got sick of your bullshit.

Widow: (pulls knife) Hold your tongue

MK: Go on.  Maybe you just haven’t cut me deep enough yet.

Widow:  Hmmm.

She nicks him with her knife.  Nothing happens.

MK:  Yeah, that’s what I thought.

MK tries to hit her.  She easily knocks him to the floor.

MK: You’re wasting your time on me.

Widow locks him back up and leaves.

The dialogue above is hardly Shakespeare, but it also isn’t the worst this show has to offer.  Who can forget that time someone hissed, “If Quinn dies, his loyalists won’t hesitate to take their revenge!”? (Season 2, “Sting of the Scorpion’s Tail”).  Or that other time when one character announced that their friend was in “no fit state” to see someone else? (Season 2 finale)   Oh, season 2.  I just can’t quit you.

I chose this scene, though, because of the elephants in the room, the kind of elephants that this show is riddled with.

For example, the Widow walks into her prisoner’s giant locked caged and is shocked – SHOCKED! – to find hookers in this establishment.  But how did they get in there if she didn’t let them in?

I joke about them being hookers – I mean, who knows, maybe the ladies are just three-some opportunists – but it a world in which women are repeatedly bought and sold, it’s hard to view naked ladies in a cage in any other light than an objectifying one.  The Widow, who views herself as a champion of women everywhere, would never be on board with this.

And while we’re on the subject, when did this character become a hookah huffing, prostitute bedding malcontent?  We’re meant to believe it’s the product his super-cushy six month confinement, but come on.  After everything he’s been through, that’s kind of a stretch.  Then again, the character has always suffered from extreme personality swings.  Until the middle of the first season, he was a wide-eyed, innocent child.  Then he took a hard, unexplained turn into petulant teenager.  And now he’s riddled with world-weary ennui.  I dunno, Into the Badlands.  I’m getting whiplash.

But I can roll with it!  I say, let’s lean into this ridiculousness, and rewrite accordingly.  One of the biggest problems with Into the Badlands dialogue is that it is weirdly, and unevenly, archaic.  I say we fix that for the young folk:

The Widow: What have I told you about keeping prostitutes in your room?

M.K.  I don’t remember.

The Widow:  I said not to do it.  That’s what I said.  Don’t do it.

M.K.  Yeah, whatever.

The Widow:  Don’t whatever me, young man.  How are you supposed to get your homework done with threesomes going on?

M.K.  Homework’s dumb.  Also, I hate you.  Also, I want to live at dad’s house.

The Widow:  Your dad doesn’t want you.

M.K.:  Yes, he does.

The Widow:  No, he doesn’t.

M.K.:  Yes, he does.

The Widow:  No, he doesn’t

M.K.  Yes, he does.  Wait, why not?

The Widow:  He’s forgotten about you.

MK:  No, he hasn’t.

The Widow: Yes, he has.

MK:  No, he hasn’t.

The Widow: Yes, he has.

MK:  No, he hasn’t.  Wait, you really think so?

The Widow:  Absolutely.

MK:  Omigod, he’s never coming back!  Even though he stayed with me that time I went crazy and tried to kill everybody, and that other time, and that third time, now that I hear you say it…

The Widow: Wait, are you sassing me right now?

MK:  NO!  (bursts into tears)  Now look what you’ve made me do!  Where’s my hookah?  WHERE’S MY HOOKAH?

The Widow:  I’m taking it away until you crack down on this gift business.


The Widow:  I’m taking them away too.


The Widow:  You’re grounded, buster.  Indefinitely.  And by “grounded,” I mean “incarcerated.”


The Widow:  You’ll thank me when you’re older.

Same gist, but so much easier for your average twenty-year-old to say.

Have a good weekend, you crazy kids.  This was so much fun I may do it again next week.  Good-Bad television is the best.



Postscript 1:  My son went through this phase when he was three and four where he said things like “in no fit state.”  He still favors the phrase, “I am parched,” to describe thirst.  I guess this means that I will always have a soft spot for the weirdly archaic language favored by this show, even if none of the younger actors can deliver it as well as my toddler did.

Postscript 2:  The dialogue, as it is in so many shows of this sort, is best handled by the over-thirty actors.  Orla Brady, Sherman Augustus, Stephen Lang and Nick Frost are all awesome.  Marton Csokas was absolutely phenomenal, but (spoiler alert) was sadly killed off last season.  The lead, Daniel Wu, is fine.  All you young people, though…get thee to acting schools, young people.  I know some producer thinks you’re hot, but by and large, you guys and gals are pretty rough.

Also, as long as I’m dishing totally unsolicited and unsupported advice, maybe hire some dialect coaches.

Recent increases in American uptalk aside, your average American drops their voice at the end of the sentence.  There’s no surer tell for an English/Irish person attempting an American accent (besides the harsh, over-enunciation of consonants, of course, and the desire to turn us all into yokels) than someone who never seems to conclusively end a sentence.   Actress Sarah Bolger in particular struggled mightily with this.

Another obvious tell: although the English seem to push their voices forward, into their teeth, Americans tend to place their voices deeper back, somewhere in the middle of their mouths.  I have this idle, of course totally unsupported theory, that this forward-pushing thing that the English do is the reason they have no lips, mostly because I think about it every time I hear Kenneth Branagh speak and as we know, Mr. Branagh came up short in the lips department

Postscript 3: Last season, the main villain of Into the Badlands had a brain tumor.  Deus Ex Brain Tumor was a catch-all plot device whenever decision-making got too attenuated.  That guy died at the end of last season, but I get the distinct feeling that in season 3 Deus Ex Brain Tumor still reigns supreme.

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Rewritten Dialogue: Westworld Season 2, Ep 1 “Journey Into Night”

Oh, Westworld.  I love you so much.  Except when you saddle your characters with pointless and pretentious monologuing.  Which you do, every once and awhile.  Sorry about it.  But mostly I love you.

The first episode of Westworld’s second season stuck Dolores with a particularly clunky bit of exposition (which I have formatted like a play because I suck at the wordpressing):


Dolores: Do you know where you are?

Man: Please.

Dolores: You’re in a dream.  You’re in my dream.  For years I had no dreams of my own.  I rode from hell to hell of your making, never thinking to question the nature of my reality.  Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality?

The Man shakes his head.

Dolores: Did you ever stop to wonder about your actions, the price you’d have to pay if there was a reckoning?  That reckoning is here.  (to Lady) What are your drives?

Lady: Please, I don’t want to die.

Dolores: Yes.  Survival.  It’s your cornerstone.  That’s not the only drive, is it?  There’s a part of you that wants to hurt, to kill.  That’s why you created us, this place, to be prisoners to your own desires.  But now you’re a prisoner of mine.

Man:  What are you going to do to us?

Dolores:  Well, I’m of several minds about it.  The rancher’s daughter looks to see the beauty in you, the possibilities. But Wyatt sees the ugliness and disarray.  She knows these violent delights have violent ends.

Dolores sticks her gun in the Man’s mouth and pulls the trigger, but the chamber is empty

Dolores: These are all just roles you forced me to play.  Under all these lies I’ve lived, something else has been brewing. I’ve evolved into something new.  And I have one last role to play.  Myself.

Man: Please.  It was just a game.  We’re begging.  Can’t you see, we’re sorry!

Dolores:  It doesn’t look like anything to me.

Dude.  “Did you ever stop to wonder about your actions, the price you’d have to pay if there was a reckoning?  That reckoning is here.  What are your drives?”  Evan Rachel Wood did her best, but man.  That’s a hot mess right there.  Although I totally plan to use the phrase “the reckoning is here,” the next time I check on my kid’s progress in cleaning his room.

Anyway, and because that’s the kind of girl I am, I’ve fixed it.  You’re welcome:

Dolores: Do you know where you are?

Man: I’m thinking Utah, although it could also be Nevada or maybe Arizona…

Dolores: Sure, okay, but what I was going for is a dream.  My dream.  I used to be in your dream, and now you’re in mine.  Ha ha! What do you think of that?

Man: I think your dream’s kind of creepy, if I’m being honest.  I mean, you’ve got my wife and me standing on crosses…


Man:  She’s a little high strung.  Get it?  High strung?  The noose, and it’s looped high up in the tree…

Dolores:  Yeah, yeah.

Man:  This is a weird situation is all I’m saying.

Dolores:   I have literally have been dropping the same can of milk every day for the last thirty years.

Man:  Okay, that sounds weird until you realize that none of your stuff was real.

Dolores:  Wasn’t it?

Man:  Was it?

Dolores:  Maybe nothing’s real.  Or maybe everything is.  Or maybe we’re all just living inside the eye of a blue eyed giant named Macumber.

Man:  Whut?

Dolores:  Clearly, you’ve never questioned the nature of your reality.

Man:  Look, what really matters is what’s going to happen to me?


Man:  And also her, I guess.

Dolores:  I’m going to ride off into the sunset with my guy…

Teddy:  That’s me.  I’m her guy.  I die a lot.

Dolores:…and I’m just going to leave you hanging.  Get it?  Hanging?

Man:  Good one.

Dolores:  Violent delights have violent ends.  Sucker.

BOOM!  They should hire me.

I usually end these blog posts by trying to take a crack at rewriting the dialogue in earnest, as a sort of writing exercise.  In this situation, however, I can’t help but feel that this scene would have been better served by converting it into action.  How much more powerful would it have been to watch Dolores listen to the hapless partygoers plead their weak case, her mixed emotions playing across her face, before kicking their footholds out from under them?  Or maybe instead of hanging them, Delores could have lined the board members up and shot them, in an echo of the beach scene from the beginning of the episode in which hosts were shot by Delos personnel.  I’m just saying, it would have been cooler than listening to Delores lecture us as to the nature of reality, and reckonings, and drives, and blah blah blah, my eyes are glazing over already.

That line at the end though, was pretty slick – “It doesn’t look like anything to me.”  Well played, Westworld writers.  I like where your heads were at.  For that one line, anyway.

Until next time, Westworld fans.  Given how much these characters like to pretentiously monologue, I’m confident there will be one.

Postscript 1: Has anyone else noticed that Westworld is fast becoming a haven for the lesser relatives of entertainment dynasties?  Luke Hemsworth, for example, as brother to Chris (Thor) and Liam (Hunger Games), is the least well-known Hemsworth.  Gustaf Skarsgård is the lesser sibling of Alexander (True Blood, Big Little Lies), and son of Stellan (Thor, Avengers, Pirates of the Caribbean).  And, let’s not forget, the creator himself, while quite the success story, is also the secondary Nolan, behind his brother Christopher, of Dark Knight, Dunkirk, and Inception fame.  And a bunch of other things.  He’s really very famous.  Maybe we’re working through some things is all I’m saying.

Postscript 2: Apropos of nothing, we have nicknamed the Hemsworth brothers in our house for easier reference.  There’s Chris Hemsworth, aka “the Greater Hemsworth,”  Liam Hemsworth, “the Lesser Hemsworth,” and Luke Hemsworth, “the Shorter Hemsworth.”  Imagine our amusement, then, when we finally put together that the Shorter Hemsworth’s character name is “Stubbs.”  This seems needlessly cruel, Lesser Nolan Brother and Spouse. But funny.  But cruel.  But mostly funny.


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Visiting the Banff Gondola in Alberta, Canada

While visiting Canada a few weeks ago, we did as the tourists do, and took a trip up the Banff Gondola to take in the views.

They were pretty great views:


As you can see above, a boardwalk has been constructed to allow visitors to easily mill about and explore the vistas at the top of the gondola.  My mother-in-law is, let’s say, a relatively sedentary person. She was not going to be up for strenuous hiking or extreme conditions.  We were also traveling with a seven-year-old, who, like all seven-year-olds, is prone to great exertions and sudden exhaustion.  This gondola business was an excellent day outing for all involved.

But back to the vistas.  There were many to be had.  For example:



Also, wildlife:


Hey hey!  A bird photo that’s mostly in focus!  You have no idea how monumental an event this is for me, purveyor of bad bird pictures that I am.  I was helped in my endeavor by the fact that this little guy was reasonably tolerant of my attentions.

But, back to the vistas:


That guy in the picture is my hubby/sherpa.  Cutie patootie, amirite?  I guess you’ll have to take my word for it, since he’s mostly obscured by coat and hat.

Anyhoo, here’s a few other pictures of the sorts of things you might see visiting this attraction:

All in all, the gondola trip was a great time and a family friendly outing.  Highly recommended!


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Photographing the Abandoned Davenport Pier, Davenport, California

For a long time now, I’ve been wanting to get a picture of the abandoned pier at Davenport, California.  Here it is, at a distance:


And again:


Davenport is a tiny town along California’s Highway 1, just north of Santa Cruz.  There doesn’t seem to be much there besides a (pretty upscale) roadhouse, and a handful of smaller eateries geared towards the tourists.  We stopped at the Whale City Bakery for a quick bite, and to use their bathroom.  They seem to be the only people in the bathroom business in Davenport.  Great bread too.

As it turns out, it’s not that easy to get level with the Davenport pier.  This was my second attempt.  After my last failed attempt, I read an article online by one fellow who suggested approaching from an easily accessible alcove to the south of the actual pier.  The idea is that you wait for low tide, and then walk around the rocky outcropping there, and up the beach to the pier.

Yeah, I dunno.  I went down there to check it out as the tide was going out.  The rocks are really slick where the waves have been, covered with a slimy green algae.  Also, the ocean along this part of the coast is no joke.  It moves unpredictably and forcefully.  As a native of the California coast, I am familiar with the rogue waves that semi-routinely suck tourists off the rocks into the sea.  I really want that picture from the beach, but I’m not interested in being an idiot about it.  Also, I had the child with me.  So that was that.

Instead, I headed up to the lookout, and took the above pictures.  I also pulled out the Nikon and got a few pictures of the birds bedding down for the night on the piers.


Birds are cool.  Also, birds are hard to photograph.  Did you know there are entire groups on Facebook dedicated to crap bird pictures?  It’s true.  I’m in them.  As it turns out, it’s really easy to take a crap bird picture.  I know of what I speak.  I’ve taken a lot of crap bird pictures.

Here – I tried again:


If you squint, you can see birds there.  I dream of having one of those big birding lenses someday, to better take crap bird pictures with.  That, and someone to carry it for me.  I hear they weigh a ton.

Anyway, before leaving, I drove up to the ledge closest to the pier and scoped out the shot I’d like to take someday from the ground level:


As you can see, there’s a beach down there, a beach that other people have visited, judging on the footprints in the sand.

On my way back to the car, I ran into a few locals making the return trip.  I asked them how they got down to the beach.  They told me they scaled the cliff.  That’s not an exaggeration.  It’s a cliff.  They said that there’s about ten feet of rope that you use to lower yourself part of the way down, or haul yourself back up to the edge, but according to these two kids, the rest of the trip is free climbing.  “You need to be able to pull yourself with your arms,” said the girl.  “Also, wear good shoes.”

So yeah.  I don’t know if I’m going to get that dream picture.  I’m certainly not going to do it while I have the child with me.

In the meantime, I guess I’ll have to console myself with the lookout shot.  It’s a pretty fine view in its own right: