Let’s hear it for the red, white and blue and a girl with a sensible pair of shoes. It takes a good pair of shoes to be able to prance across an undulating terra-cotta façade, twenty stories up. Microsoft’s Windows 8 has as its screen saver the ability to use your photographs as a slide show. Both Anne and I really enjoy this feature and frequently find ourselves hypnotized by it. Often I see a photo that I would like to use for the blog, but with over a 100,000 pictures in the library, it is sometimes difficult to actually find the photo. Not so much with this one, because I had posted about the troupe here, at the time and knew when it had occurred. We got there early enough that I could consult with the professional photographers. They advised that I obliquely shoot the show, capturing the space between the building and the dancers. One of the building’s signature busts of a continental soldier is in the background of this shot. Bandaloop was the headliner that year for the Saint Louis festival, Dancing in the Streets. I wish that they would bring back both the festival and Bandaloop.
The second trailer for the new Star Wars movie, “The Force Awakens,” came out today. Here is a link to it and in case you have been living under a rock and missed the first trailer, the one that nearly crashed the Internet last Black Friday, here is a link to that one too. One of the young guys at worked announced its release today and a few of us gathered around a PC to watch it. At just under two-minutes it is short, but it is still packed with lots of neat stuff. It starts out with the Lucas film logo, which is all that remains of George in this now Disney franchise. OK, enough snarking on George, it starts out on a desert planet, possibly Tatooine or possibly just Tunisia. The landscape is littered with crashed space junk, an X-Wing fighter in the foreground and a crumbling Star Destroyer in the background. Next, we see Darth Vader’s scorched helmet, shown here as a GIF. A cloaked figure touches R2D2. He has a robotic hand. This is Luke Skywalker, we learn through his voice over:
The Force is strong in my family…
My father has it…
I have it…
My sister has it…
You have that power too.
It’s unclear who he’s talking to though. Could it be a son or daughter? We’ll have to wait to see. The clip continues with scenes of battle, scenes full of storm troopers and one big reveal that I won’t spoil here. Watch the clip and find out. As with most multiple trailer releases there is some overlap between the different trailers, but there is always new material to be gleamed from each.
I’ve been a fan of Star Wars almost since its inception. Anne and I saw the original movie within a week of its May, 1977 release. I still remember the anticipatory buzz about that film that circulated among the crowd waiting in line. The film doesn’t look as well now as it did then, but it revolutionized a movie genre and in truth, movies in general. My favorite picture in the series has always been “The Empire Strikes Back”. The principle characters are the most fleshed out, the story is the most interesting and the plot twists the most gut retching, than in any of the other episodes. I was working nights here in Saint Louis when that film was released. I and a bunch of my co-workers gathered for the very first Friday morning matinée to see the show. Some of them even smuggled in their own popcorn. Ever since then Lucas seemed increasing more interested in merchandising than in movie making. I hope that this Disney reboot reverses that trend. They spent enough for the chance.
My brush with corporate bureaucracy today involved a dose of mandatory training. Every year, I am assigned about a dozen online courses that cover a wide gambit of subjects, but can be lumped into one of two categories, either ethics or safety. I view the ethics classes as remedial attempts to teach me what I should have learned in kindergarten. “What do you mean that there are appearances of impropriety, if I accept this briefcase full of unmarked, non-sequential $100 bills from the Sultan of Brunei?”
I find these courses to be the most insulting, because they seem to assume that by my watching thirty minutes of slides and then parroting back the desired answers to their quiz questions, this will in some way instill in me the moral compass that before taking this course was sadly missing. I’m guessing that the real purpose of these ethics related courses is for when after I take the briefcase and then jet-off to South America, the company’s lawyers can tell the Feds, “Oh well, we tried.”
OK, I got that rant off my chest. Today’s training was actually in the safety column and had to do with the dangers of workplace violence or you’re not paranoid, your boss is really trying to kill you. This is a new course, so in the mantra of the movie, Groundhog’s Day, “Anything different is good.” One drawback with new courses is that you actually have to flip through the course’s slides and watch any videos, even if you don’t have sound, because someone has stolen the earphones from the public terminals.
Normally, with all of the repeat courses, you are offered the expedient opportunity to test out. This is what I always do, when it is available. Usually, there are 10-20 questions and a passing score is 80-90%. If you fail, then you must actually take the course, but I have discovered a flaw in the system.
After answering each question, you are told whether or not you were correct. If you do not have a perfect score, then you can abort out of the test before answering the last question. Then you can simply restart the test, answering all of the questions correctly this time. This is a lot more efficient than actually taking the course. I assume that this is ethical, because it is permitted and OBTW, I flunked kindergarten.
The workplace safety class introduced the mantra, “get out, hide out, and take out”, which is actually an abbreviated version of the full mantra that also includes a few other helpful strategies like “call out, spread out and keep out”. I think that these three other strategies are good to know, but they were not covered in the course. In the test portion all of the correct answers were to “contact your manager or human resources”. What if it is your manager who is wielding the gun? My favorite question though involved how to deal with the delusional employee. Said employee keeps complaining about getting all of these messages from the television and that the TV is speaking to him in voices. The correct answer was of course, “contact your manager or human resources”, but I so wanted to pick, “Tell him to turn off the [damn] TV.”
A ground swell, a broad deep undulation of the ocean, is often caused by a far-off storm. Its waves felt even under clear skies. Causing here, in Edward Hopper’s painting, a buoy to sound-off, even when there is no apparent danger. The four figures on the passing catboat, three men half-dressed in white and a woman in red, sail a white boat over the white swells and under a bright sky. In this quiet and voyeuristic view, the figures aboard the boat are disengaged from each other. Their gazes fixed on the black bell buoy, and their trancelike state is reinforced by the rolling waves beneath them. Counterpoint to all of this lightness is the buoy itself and the darker swells on the horizon. Painted in September of 1939, the picture’s symbolism is unmistakably linked to the advent of World War II. Hopper and his wife were living at a beach house that they built themselves, in South Truro, Massachusetts, when he painted “Ground Swell”, which is now housed at the National Gallery.
After a slow start on Sunday, we launched by car, first to REI, where Anne used our soon to expire 20% off coupon and got herself a new pair of shoes. Then next we headed north to the Riverlands. Anne had a Jones going for some nature. The water was high, in spring flood and at first there didn’t seem to be that many birds around, but we walked and drove around and had a pretty good species list by the end of the day. Our haul included, coots, shovelers, grebes, hawks, cormorants, egrets, herons and pelicans, there were lots of pelicans. We bumped into a pair of real birders there, a father and his son. They were quite the avid birders. They had called us over to them, because they had seen a snipe and wanted to show it to us, but by the time that we arrived it had melted into the bush. They are very good at that. The boy proceeded to enumerate all of the birds that they had already seen that day. It was quite an impressive list and certainly didn’t require the few embellishments that the father thought had been added. The kid was really quite precocious, as only children of that age can be. Unfortunately, none of our bird sightings were at a sufficiently close range that would have yielded a nice photo. The wasps were another matter. I had to back up to get this shot.
I was asked why I don’t publish very many photos of myself. Well, I’m not pretty, at least not as beautiful as Anne is, IMHO, and I do take plenty of pretty pictures of her and other beautiful people and other things. Why would anyone want to look at my mug, when they could see a flower, a sweet smelling flower? Well, here I am, certainly stylized, but front and center, with my posse in tow.
It was a beautiful day today. Anne and I launched towards the park this morning, a 5K run being held there made the cross park ride seem like a marathon, but that’s not scheduled until tomorrow. Hundreds of people, especially little people, were all over the bike path. We sloughed our way through this human tide to the CWE and Mike’s Bikes. There we met Alice and Chris with their newly rented, trusty, steel steeds. We headed south towards Tower Grove Park. Our route took more than a few detours as we tried to navigate all of the construction ongoing now in the hospital district. We toured the Handlebar in the Grove, with its rather eclectic vending machine, full of bike tools, tubes, smokes, condoms and the like.
The farmers market was going great guns in Tower Grove. We noshed a bit there and then circled the park. On the way back we stopped at Olio, a new to us restaurant that had made the Post’s best restaurant list last month. I’ve ridden by it dozens of times and always wanted to check it out. In an old gas station, it was very nice, very modern and very cool. Because we were going to go out to dinner in only a few hours hence, we only had appetizers, but such appetizers they were. We all shared and everyone’s choice was excellent. I had the Post’s recommended baby octopuses, which apparently slowed the whole order. According to our waitress, “The cooks had some trouble corralling the baby octopuses, because they kept climbing out of the tank.”
Back to the CWE and Mike’s Bikes and then Anne and I hammered home. After showers and a quick turnaround, we met Alice and Chris again at the Sidney Street Café, for some more hâute cuisine. Fortunately for me the portions there were small. It was equally as enjoyable as Olio. Two wins in one day! After dinner, we bade bon voyage to our friends, saying à bientôt instead of adieu, because we have already made plans to see them again in May, for both their son’s college graduations. OBTW, oxter is Scottish and not French and we four cyclist were quite able to clear out the interior of Olio.