2019

The First Photograph And Russell Lee

For my introduction to photography class, this week I prepared a lecture on the history of photography. Cramming nearly 200 years of photography into 75 minutes was a daunting task. I started with the earliest image known to exist — a “heliograph” created by French inventor Joseph Niépce in 1826. It took an eight-hour exposure to create the street scene using an asphalt-like emulsion coated on a pewter plate. The image, encased in a box and behind glass inside a dimly lit room, is on permanent display at the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin. The HRC boasts one of the largest...

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Travels Marked By Magnets And Stickers

I went to fetch a Topo Chico out of the refrigerator the other day. As the door opened, a refrigerator magnet fell to the floor after I accidentally nudged it while grabbing the handle. The magnet displays the silhouette of a moose on a background of red and black checks — like the flannel shirt hanging in my closet. The title: Vermont. I placed the magnet back on the fridge, where it keeps company with other souvenirs of our travels — from Big Bend to Boston, Taos to The Big Apple. Interspersed are magnets sent annually at Christmas by a lawyer friend. One of my favorites purports to quote...

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A Halloween Treat: Cold Weather Arrives

Fall waited until the morning of Halloween to make an appearance, but finally it is here behind the Pine Curtain. Temperatures dipped below freezing Friday morning. The leaves on the oak and sweetgum trees visible out my study window are turning brown and raining down, leaving a colorful carpet on the driveway. The yard guy shows up every other week to blow and bag them up, a job I once performed but wisely retired from. The DIY ethic only goes so far with me these days. There are certain rituals in our household to be followed as actual cold weather arrives. My Beautiful Mystery Companion is the keeper...

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Chasing Autumn in the Blue Ridge Mountains

ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA – My Beautiful Mystery Companion and I took off last week and chased autumn, which has been slow to arrive in East Texas. We drove nearly 14 hours over two days to hike and drive through the stunning fall foliage that can be found this time of year along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was worth every mile and minute of the journey, which took us through Arkansas to bisect Tennessee – entering at Memphis and heading into North Carolina after exiting Knoxville, nearly 400 miles later. The Blue Ridge Parkway stretches 469 miles through the Blue Ridge Mountains from Virginia...

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Franklin’s Autobiography Is A Gem

A friend gave me The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin for my birthday. I have been reading it slowly, savoring each clever turn of phrase. Franklin has been an object of fascination since I was a child. Decades ago, my mom gave me a decanter that once held McCormick bourbon, which she bought at a garage sale. The decanter is a full-color statue of Franklin, quite nicely done. His head was attached by a removable cork stopper. The decanter was empty, but ol’ Ben has occupied a proud spot in the many houses in which I have lived. While I have read several biographies over the decades,...

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Teaching Photography For the First Time

The fall semester is halfway over, the weather has finally cooled to tolerable temps, leaves are starting to turn, and, thus far, I have survived my first foray into teaching an Introduction to Digital Photography course at LeTourneau University. Having a full classroom of bright, eager-to-learn students certainly helps, as I navigate through building a course from scratch. Next semester will be easier; this semester’s students were forewarned that they were the guinea pigs. To the best of memory no one has ever taught photography at LETU. Photography is how I managed to climb up the next...

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The Great Sun Storm of 1859

I was perusing old newspapers online the other day and learned about the Great Sun Storm of 1859. The newspapers.com site was marking the 160th anniversary of the event. Here is what happened: The night sky of August 28th, 1859, in much of the United States, was cloudless with a new moon just forming. In Vermont, eyewitnesses at 7:30 P.M. reported “a large fire behind the mountain.” Soon spires of green shot up from the behind the same mountain, which coincidentally is part of the Green Mountains range. The Vermont Chronicle in Bellows Fall reported, “the heavens were lighted up with a display...

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Flip Phones Key Element of Dated Series

I began watching “24,” the action-drama series starring Keifer Sutherland, several weeks ago, indulging myself in an episode or two after I leave the library late at night and come home. The show was created in 2001. It definitely feels dated. The premise intrigued me; each show is predicated to consume an hour in real time, so an entire season covers just one day. There are eight seasons, covering eight really long days. I learned this when I was not-quite halfway into the show. I am nearing the end of season four and Sutherland, as Jack Bauer, in the line of duty is about halfway through...

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A Slippery Slope to Sloppy Style

In the nearly four decades that I have been writing and occasionally getting paid for it (although mainly I made a living editing and making sure the bills got paid at whatever newspaper I ran) an Associated Press stylebook was never out of reach. It is the go-to manual of style and usage for newspapers. I have largely adhered to its precepts even though I no longer write for newspapers. Thus, I view with a modicum of alarm some recent changes to the s tylebook recently announced. Other changes make sense, and I have conformed accordingly. I attended the University of Missouri School...

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Big Papi Comes Home to Fenway

It looks like the Boston Red Sox are not going to make the playoffs this year. Last year’s World Series champions, for the fourth time in 15 years, suffered this season from erratic pitching and a disastrous eight-game losing streak in August. It isn’t mathematically impossible for them to grab a wild card slot, but nearly so. The team this week fired its club president, a certain sign it is time to regroup and rebuild. I don’t mourn the team’s fall from the elite, not wanting to be greedy. I’ll definitely be rooting for the Houston Astros when they likely play the Yankees for the American...

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