The Lope: December 2008

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas Leftovers 2008

Yule happens, and sometimes it happens so fast and there's so much of it that little bits of Christmas fall through the cracks or big chunks of it are simply too large to deal with at the time because, after all, it's more important to live life than to blog it. Here then, is a last helping of Noel which was originally supposed to post before New Year's Eve but got lost amid publication problems, a stomach flu and time with friends and family.

Above and below, workers apply Christmas decorations in Hutchinson, Kansas, near the fabulous Fox Theatre.

During Thanksgiving at my Mom's house, we saw the Grinch get a wonderfully awful idea. And we all got misty-eyed when the little Dutch girl saw Santa.

I gained a new aesthetic appreciation for my mom's old Hamilton Beach mixer.

We watched Andy Williams in the Macy's Thanksgiving parade on TV.

And three days later we saw the Andy Williams Christmas show in Branson. I'm not really a fan of Branson in general - too much traffic for one thing - but it was fun to see an icon of my youth who can still deliver the entertainment. I highly recommend the show.

There's a huge display of vintage automated Christmas mannequins in Branson at the Trail of Lights, part of the Shepard of the Hills complex. We went through, and I shot some, but I shot so many photos that it'll have to wait for next Christmas season.

The first snow arrived just after. It was enjoyable but not nearly as perfect as a later snow.

On black Friday, I picked up a Canon SX10is to replace my unreliable Sony DSC-H2. I'm still field-testing the new camera, with mixed results. Brief review: 20x lens, fast shutter lag, tilting viewfinder and video during zooming are great, but lens is not threaded for filters, maximum 15 sec shutter speed isn't good for time exposures, slow lens forces slow shutter speeds in dim environments and auto-focus has trouble with subjects that include light sources - like Christmas lights, flashing signs and trains with headlights.

One impetus for buying a camera in the super-zoom category was to maintain a useful focal range and manual control while flying under the anti-DSLR radar held by many venues and artists. This helps when one wants to photograph events like this "Howe Squire and White of Yes" concert in St Louis - the "In The Present" tour. Here, Steve Howe is "Close to the Edge" in dry ice fog. I'll show more of Yes in January; and hey, if anyone can get through to their press agent, I'd like a couple quotes.

While in St Louis, I managed to score a discounted hotel room with this view of the St Louis Arch, and shot much of Route 66 along with some nice neon signs and googie architecture. I also found some Christmas decor.

When the Kansas City Southern Holiday Express rolled fittingly into Noel, Missouri, I had to go see it.

It was fun to catch up with the KCS elves, including Patricia Tamisiea (right) and Shawn Levy in the background.

This was my favorite time exposure of one of the vintage F-9 locomotives that pull the KCS executive train, The Southern Belle.

It was a pleasure to meet photographer J. P. Bell, who preferred to "paint" the locomotives with sequential flashes, much in the manner of O. Winston Link.

By the next night, the call of elvedom was too strong in my blood, and I donned the green once again. My job was to help direct folks leaving the train toward the correct safety hand rail. I learned to vary the basic statement of "please use the yellow handrail" - spoken by me a couple hundred times - to avoid a sort of verbal-repetitive carpel tunnel syndrome. (photo by Shawn Levy)

Ace, of course, did his duty...which was...well, he was there, anyway.

Back in Joplin, Weaselhead helped us put up Mom's Christmas decorations.

On the drive home to Hutchinson, I spotted this huge lighted decoration on the side of the Coleman company in Wichita. Santa is of course waving a Coleman lantern.

On Saturday December 13th geese flew over the moon.

Upon arrival in Hutchinson, I was able to savor the simplicity of one friend's holiday decor.

And bask in the complexity of another's.

Patsy's party was a chance to enjoy old friends.

And make some new ones, like Barbara, one of Ace's readers.

Ace spent part of the soiree in a warm place.

The next weekend, on the 20th, I photographed the Hutchinson Hyde Park Luminaria.

I paid my property tax at the Reno County Courthouse; the woman in front of me could not pay hers and poured out her tale - an earnest one, I believe - to the teller. Her face, as she turned distraught from the line, reminded me of Dorothea Lange photos from the Great Depression. She was scared, and I was sobered by the realization of how many of her there are out there. I count my blessings.

The most ancient reason for the season rolled around - winter solstice - and a friend showed me accouterments of her Yule celebration.

Back in Joplin, Christmas Eve sunset afforded nice color saturation. The white part, below, is the top of my car. When you don't have time to set up the tripod, go for the top of the car, but shut it off and watch for heat distortions.

On Christmas Eve I saw the children of friends watch for Santa's sleigh.

And forget all about the red-clad fat man when presents had been discovered.

I received chocolate-covered potato chips sold only in Ohio around Christmas.

Ace met a new friend - a bear who had a cool flight jacket from MBDA missile defense systems, a defense contractor. A USAF pal of Ace's had met the bear at a conference and thought the two would get along.

And then it was story time.

I went to midnight mass at St Peter's Church in Joplin, Missouri. Funny thing is, I'm not religious in any organized way, but the beauty of people gathering to celebrate something so important to them in an incense-infused ritual is irresistible to me. And it was midnight for gosh sakes! How often do you get to do anything cool in a crowd at midnight that you can actually talk about?

I shot no pictures on Christmas, being incapacitated with a nasty stomach flu that started in the wee hours. I re-worded a number of Christmas carols with phrases pertaining to bodily functions, but I won't poison your mind with them. I didn't even get out early to shop the day after Christmas.

A few days later I recovered and a Japanese restaurant reminded me how easily I am amused by fire. Fire - good.

On December 30th, I savored how we are are constantly reminded of our place in the universe, even in a suburban setting. Just as at the beginning of the month, Venus and the moon had begun to dance, though this is only a trick of perspective from Earth. The next night looked even better.

On the next to the last day of 2008, we visited Waylon's Ku Ku in Miami, Oklahoma, on Route 66. This particular Ku Ku is the last survivor of a chain; I'll try to drop in a picture of the building soon.

Waylon's has a couple of these (probably fiberglass) Ku Ku's hanging around.

Owner Eugene Waylon saw me taking pictures and gave us cool little key chains. I consider mine a last Christmas present of the year.

Main Street in Miami holds the Coleman Theatre Beautiful, as well as some good municipal Christmas decorations.

Back at Mom's place in Joplin, Ace and Santa regard the new key chain. Ace wears a jacket remarkably similar to the one last seen on MBDA bear, who was nowhere to be seen.

I guess it's time to put Weaselhead away for the season.

Twilight of 2008

The crescent moon and Venus preside over the last twilight of 2008.

We at wish you a happy 2009 filled with discovery and wonder.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hyde Park Luminaria in Hutchinson, Kansas

One of the most charming aspects of Hutchinson, Kansas, during the Christmas season is the annual luminaria that spreads over 36 blocks - east to west from Main to Monroe and north to south from 23rd to 18th. display of luminaria sacks (candles in bags anchored with sand) that engulfs the Hyde Park area of Hutchinson.

A certain Kris Kringle of the North Pole, with off-season residence in Great Neck, LI (Miracle On 34th Street reference), showed up to entertain visitors. This was no small contribution as the temperature was in the single digits. I suppose he's used to that, what with living at the North Pole and all.

Mrs. Claus joined, too.

According to organizer Jim Sunderland, 253 homes participated in the luminaria, which started at 6 PM and ran until between 9 and 10. The luminaria began in 1983 and has occurred every year since, except for 2007 when it was cancelled due to the ice storm. Periodically it has expanded like a paper and fire amoeba.

A collection of blow-molded Santas stands vigil on the garage of Gary and Gayle Ford.

The red streak was left by a car's tail light as it drove down Washington Street. Many people turn their head lights off while driving through the more minor streets of the luminaria, but a police officer on hand told me this is still illegal. I didn't see any tickets given, though.

Many of the decorations in Hyde park tend toward conservative and elegant.

Once in awhile things get too close and fire and paper do what fire and paper do best. I saw some kids helping this process along a couple times as the event wound down around 9 PM; I'm sure that wasn't in the plan.

Wagon rides were offered. The steam as the horses breathed was rather pronounced.

Another perk of the luminaria experience was hot chicken soup and cocoa served for a mere three bucks in the toasty-warm interior of Grace Episcopal Church. Just outside, a cub scout troop served free hot cider and cookies.

Let me tell you, hot soup never tastes so good as when it's five degrees outside.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Hutchinson Kansas Christmas Lights

Hutchinson, Kansas, simply rocks when it comes to decking the lawn with tons of wattage.

Aside from the afore-blogged lawn of Dale Hankins and the Hyde Park Luminaria, we've got several zones of interest, the most conspicuous of which is the large area of perimeter lights seen above and below. The lights span across most lawns from East 17th to 23rd Avenues and Meadowlark Lane to North Lorraine Street. The tradition started a number of years ago on East 22nd Avenue and typically begins Thanksgiving weekend and lasts til New Years.

Some residents go the extra mile with displays like this automated Santa in sleigh on East 20th Avenue.

Here's a video of the scene.

Hutchinson has at least two houses with music-coordinated Christmas lights.

Not too far north from the perimeter light area, near the east end of the very short Newport Road, is a house with computer-coordinated flashing lights set to music that is broadcast through a low-power FM radio station. I shot a clip of this, posted it to YouTube and embedded it here, but YouTube disabled the audio since since it is copyrighted music. I don't know if the homeowner had permission to use it.

This house on College Lane uses speakers on the lawn instead of a radio signal.

Moving on north of the bulk of the city, giant Christmas cards decorate the lawns of several streets in the Foot Hill Drive area north of East 43rd Avenue.

This house at 6th and Poplar is always decorated nicely.

And this 2007 photo shows a scene on East Sherman Street, part of the Houston Whiteside historic neighborhood. Many houses in the neighborhood are decked out.

Also in the Houston Whiteside neighborhood, this restored Victorian home at East First Avenue and Plum Streets has featured a talking automated Santa for at least the past two years. See closer views, here.

Most of these lights are typically up through New Year's Eve.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Year After the Day After Christmas

A year ago, I showed the results of my December 26 shopping run of half-off loot. Wanna see what happened to some of that stuff?

The car was, crammed...with stuff for my friends and me, garnered after early AM phone calls and status reports between three of us in different cities, working in concert.

I had more humanoid forms in the car's trunk than a Chicago mobster.

I assembled a small army of these snowmen; I liked them because they looked a bit retro - like old store window displays. They should have been $44 at 50% off, but scanned as $15 so, after checking in with my various cohorts, I bought four. I kept one and the rest were deployed to their respective homes. Patsy got one, as did my mom.

The greatest amusement value we got from mom's snowman was as a huge cat toy.

Weaselhead was fascinated with the many bobbles hanging from the thing.

This particular ornament is a favorite target, but is very well fastened.

The puffball at the end of the snowman's hat took some damage, however.

No angle of attack was ignored.

I love the way a flash makes cats look so evil. If you ask me, it just reveals their true nature: "He had yellow eyes! So, help me, God! Yellow eyes!"

Who? Me?

(Disclosure: I filled in massive yellow-eye caused by the flash - it was just too evil-looking to withstand.)

Far from the dangers of feline interference, Patsy used the white tree in her mondo-Christmas display.

I didn't get out early today and grab any bargains as I am recovering from a nasty flu that also helped limit my Christmas Eve and Christmas postings. I hadn't really seen anything clever this year, though, and no giant cat toys.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Ace regards Patsy Terrell's tree (the 2006 version). Her tree got some newspaper attention today. See this Hutchinson News article. Oh, and have a merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


I've often wanted to photograph snow in such a way as to show its crystalline structure. On December 16th I got my chance after a very dry snow fall.

The snow sat like puffs of cotton on top of anything that caught it.

It was 16 degrees early in the afternoon when I shot these photos. It had been much colder.

Even though I knew it to be the case, I think this is the first time I'd seen such pronounced structure in snowflakes.

See how they catch on each other.

I learned quickly not to let my own respiration melt the flakes; it helped to wear a paper mask. When the sun came out - even at 16 degrees - the flake structure blunted and dulled due to slight melting and my photo-ops were lost. I'll remember that it takes more than extreme cold to sustain the delicacy of snowflakes.

The sun set with an flare coming out the top. Perhaps one of you meteorological folks can comment on this.

And then man-made incandescence came to the new-fallen snow.

I hope that whoever you are and whatever you believe, that your days are seasoned with flakes of wonder.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Major Award from Fragilé

On a whim last month, a friend and I attended the Family Children's Theatre production of "A Christmas Story" at the Flag Theatre in Hutchinson, Kansas.

The Flag was built as the State Theater in 1936. It seats 315 people.

St Louis

Early this month, I journeyed to St Louis for a couple days and took Route 66 as much as I could. I arrived very late at night but was able to catch a few Christmas lights on the way in.

Highway 141 crosses I-44 with a "Happy Holidays." This a stretch of I-44 which Jerry McClanahan's EZ Guide to Route 66 advises is part of Route 66.

The town of Pacific features a Christmas tree atop a cliff on the west side of town along Route 66.

Festive trees decorate the grounds of Unigroup Incorporated of Fenton, Missouri.

Flowing lights in St Louis' Kiener Plaza imitate a fountain.

Here's a little movie for you.

Christmas floodlights transform the St Louis City Court building, as seen from Kiener Plaza.

Many hours after it closed for the night, I sought Macy's downtown to see if the store used automated Christmas window displays. It didn't, but they did have several dioramas telling the story of "Yes, Virginia; there is a Santa Clause."

On my way out of town two days later, Ace and I visited Ted Drewes Frozen Custard on Route 66.

The company began in 1929 and this location dates from 1941. I knew their frozen custard was famous, but I didn't know Ted Drewes sold Christmas trees.

According to their website, Ted Drewes Jr travels to Nova Scotia every fall to select Canadian balsam fir Christmas trees to sell at the custard stand.

A friendly employee demonstrates to Ace how his black walnut concrete is so dense as to stay in the cup upside down.

I also had a pumpkin pie concrete because...well, I was there. It was good, by the way; there were even bits of crust in it.

Christmas Past

Who doesn't like a bunch of Christmas pictures this time of year? Frankly, I like them all year. Anyway, here's a list of posts that have featured Yule imagery.

Take a 2006 tour of the Christmas sections of London's Harrods and Selfriges department stores, with a dash of Hamley's toy store thrown in too, in Christmas Leftovers.

Alas, this Christmas display is offered no longer but see the last year of Christmas Corner in Jingle the Bells Slowly and Fade Out. There are some Joplin, Missouri, Christmas decorations in there, too.

Catch the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, a vintage hardware store and a cool Christmas party during Ace's Weekend of Lasers, Women, Smoke, Fire, Ice, Rules, Jewels, Tools, Rockets and Yules

Times aren't what they used to be for Christmas window displays but at least some people are still trying. I checked recently and this Joplin Christmas Window Display is up again this year.

Weaselhead the Cat crashes Ace Jackalope's photo shoot in Merry Christmas! Someone call icanhascheezburger.

LED lights really contrast with incandescent ones. See some Christmas houses and some gingerbread ones too in More Christmas Color Fun.

Patsy Terrel's tree gets a lot of attention here in Hutchinson, Kansas, and her party is an event of the season. See both in See Patsy's Tree, Yuletide Party Animal and 'Tis the Season.

A couple more Random Christmas Pictures are here.

Clarence the dinosaur and Ace often do the Hutchinson Christmas parade. You can see them in the center, on the top of the van. The parade route passes some nice signage, as seen in Parade of Neon. See more parade here and here.

Nothing says Christmas like the hacking cough of a chain smoker. Actually, come to think of it, most things say Christmas more than that. Mmm... North Pole Flavor Country! This is pretty much all that's in that past.

A Block of Mother Road Christmas has been updated with a current picture.

Christmas Mass can be a spiritual experience, even of you're not Catholic.

The coolest thing in Kansas City this time of year is the display of vintage automations in Prairie Village. Have an Animated Christmas.

See more of the house mentioned above, and some neat stuff in Pratt, Kansas in Merry Christmas from Ace Jackalope.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Hutchinson Kansas Holiday Parade 2008

They are for the most part the faces of people I do not know, but they are my fellow townspeople. With little comment, here are some photos of the Hutchinson Kansas Holiday Parade on November 22, 2008.

A little girl waves at Santa as his carriage rounds the corner of Avenue B onto Main Street.

Hutchinson antique dealer and building restorer Lloyd Armstrong photographs the parade.

The controversial Wiley building sees another parade.

I ran into uber-Yule Christmas maven Patsy Terrell.

Ace managed to connect with Rocko (nicknamed "Baracko" of late) and his non-canine assistant, Trish Rose.

One spectator sacked out in the street.

A vintage Santa watches from Yesterday's Treasures Antiques. His face, spun glass beard and hand reveal him to be a product of the defunct Harold Gale display Company of Kansas City.

Here's our coverage of the parade in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

St Teresa in the Mist

Fog engulfed St Teresa Church in Hutchinson, Kansas, this past Thursday night. Evaporation of snow from earlier in the week had left plenty of moisture in the air.

Whether it's Teresa or Theresa is a bit foggy when you're searching for the church on the Internet as both spellings appear in what seem to be sanctioned Catholic church pages. Parishes Online offers a link to the Hutchinson's St Theresa church, but that link actually connects you to St Teresa in Summit, NJ. The closest thing to a website the church seems to have lists it as St Teresa, which is also what appears on the church's sign.

While writing this, I also learned that there is academic disagreement as to styles of abbreviation but that abbreviations commonly do not have a period if they are not made of sequential letters of a word ("professor" is "prof." while "saint" becomes "st"). I learn something new everyday, even if I'm somewhat foggy on religion.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

On the Last Day of Autumn

On the last day of Autumn, the setting aligned through a curtain onto Patsy Terrell's Christmas tree, which is usually seen illuminated.

The dusk wakes the moon.

The reddening sun glances off the building that now houses Catalyst Creative Services.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Computer - Off

Majel Barrett-Roddenberry had several careers in the United Federation of Planets, the most influential of which was probably behind the scenes as wife Star Trek Creator, the late Gene Roddenberry.

Back when she was Majel Barrett, she played Nurse Christine Chapel in the original Star Trek series - a character almost defined by her unrequited love of Mr Spock.

She didn't start out that sadly stereotyped though; her initial role was as the logical and headstrong first officer of Captain Pike's Enterprise in the first Star Trek Pilot, "The Cage." Legend goes that the TV execs of the time were nervous about a woman in so commanding a role, so Mr. Spock gained a promotion, stopped smiling as he's done in "The Cage" and Majel traded Number One's cold edge for Christine Chapel's puppy dog eyes.

By the time Star Trek - The Next Generation came along, TV had grown up and Majel played the empathic and even more headstrong mother of the Enterprise' counselor and ambassador to Betazed, Lwaxana Troi. It was a part she said barely required acting.

As Lwaxana, she also had a fixation on a man - Captain Jean-Luc Picard. There was nothing pathetic about it, however; she was a just a woman who knew what she wanted and went for it.

More entrenched in our collective memory, perhaps, is her role as the voice of the computer on Star Trek and Star Trek - The Next Generation. She has also completed voice work as the computer in J.J. Abrams' reboot of Star Trek, due out next May.

At the Trek Expo convention in 2002, I asked her if she'd ever considered marketing an answering machine that used her voice. She told me that she didn't seek business opportunities of that nature but that if a company came to her with that proposition, she'd listen. She paused for a moment like a woman tallying her potential profits and suggested I write some answering machine companies and get the ball rolling on that. I didn't want it that much.

I just read on Wikipedia that she also provided her voice to the Union Pacific railroad for track-side defect detector devices. I'll have to check into that and see if I can record one sometime.

Majel Barret-Roddenberry died in her sleep yesterday at the age of 76. Answering machines have gone the way of the old Enterprise now, but she'd sure would have sounded nice on a modern GPS.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Flyin' A Plane to Grandma's House

A reader favorite has been a post I did last year on the home-built Christmas automations of Dale Hankins as they take his grandkids To Grandma's House in Hutchinson, Kansas.

Hankins tries to add new automations every year and this year one of the grandkids is "flyin' a plane to Grandma's house." See the rest of Dale's fleet at last year's To Grandma's House.

I updated that post and added this video for 2008.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Snow This Morning

It snowed in Hutchinson, Kansas, this morning and it continues to do so into the afternoon. It's 16 degrees right now, up from about ten at this time yesterday.

Inclement weather doesn't seem to bother this male cardinal.

A female hairy woodpecker feeds on suet - raw beef fat, in this case. Woodpeckers exist on a diet of insects and grubs and so prefer a higher fat bird food than seeds usually provide.

A sparrow - a friend of mine calls these LBJs, for "little brown jobs" - rests in coral honeysuckle on a trellis.

It's so cold that the snow isn't sticking much, but it sure is pretty, a seen in front of this barn.

Monday, December 15, 2008

We Need More Giant Electric Stars

Too many huge old municipal and private Christmas decorations have vanished, victims of economics, changes in public tastes or political correctness. Not so in Fredonia, Kansas, where a giant electric rotating star has risen 40 feet over an already prominent hill for over 50 Christmas seasons. If you can't drive through, click in to see the Star of Fredonia.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ace's 12 Days of Christmas

Yes, I know the traditional 12 Days of Christmas actually starts on Christmas day and runs through Epiphany, but it's much more fun to have a nearly a fortnight of Christmas photos starting now, isn't it?

See how one of the defining bits of commercial signage of the space age may actually have started with a simple Christmas ornament. On the first day of Christmas, I love to give to thee, a post about a Sputversary.

Moon Geese

The full moon was huge Friday night - 14% bigger than average owing to it being just 221,560 miles away instead of the average 238,855 miles. The geese were closer.

After a pleasant drive across half of Kansas under a cloudy sky, occasionally passing islands of rural Christmas lights, serendipity gifted me this photo-op just after sunrise on Saturday morning. Life is good. Read more about the moon at

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

One Year Ago

One year ago tonight, a rather efficient ice storm was sweeping across parts of the Midwest, including our little burg of Hutchinson, Kansas.

See the early hours of the storm in Hutchinson, here.

By the next day, it was clear that we were well and thoroughly inconvenienced. See more ice damage here.

The next few days were dicey as power came and went; There were people with worse problems, though. It became known that the death toll from Kansas and adjacent states had reached 27 by the 12th (MSNBC, Dec 12, 2007). I believe more fatality reports came in after that. Most died in car accidents in Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri.

Of course, any bizarre condition that alters the appearance of the world around us is eye candy to photographers, and I'm no exception. See more of the 2007 ice storm here.

And if you like icy stuff in general, check out the January 2007 ice storm photos from Joplin.

As much fun as ice storms are to photograph, I'm thinking they're one of those things I only want to shoot every few years. I hope to do without that particular brand of creative stimulation this winter.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

And the Monsters Weep

Forrest J. "Forry" Ackerman, creator of Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine, died Thursday. "Famous Monsters" was the horror movie aficionado's equivalent of Newsweek back when I was a lad in the 60's and early 70's. The magazine covered new movies as well as all the classics and schlock we saw on late night TV horror double features like Joplin, Missouri's Dimension 16.

Amid the sometimes pandering articles were a myriad of ads for Aurora monster models and such. I remember ordering and receiving a Vampirilla model kit - quite a racy thing for a ten year-old to have.

Eagerly I'd tag along with mom at Arlen's, Food Town or Thriftway to see if the magazine rack held a new issue of Famous Monsters, promising the latest rampages of Godzilla, Dracula sightings and unearthed secrets of the mummy's tomb.

Oh, speaking of mummys, Forry made lots of puns - all of them bad.

Publishing Famous Monsters was far from Ackerman's only accomplishment. He was quite influential in the early careers of many authors, including Ray Bradbury. He is even credited with coining the term, "sci-fi", which he said he got from seeing "hi-fi."

I had the pleasure of a long phone conversation with Ackerman in the late 1980s when I was researching the origin of a lead Brachiosaurus figurine I'd found - a relic from the 1925 silent film, The Lost World.

Amid a few of his trademark bad puns, he gave me his best guess background on the piece and was a fount of information on other bits of The Lost World flotsam that had survived extinction. He was quite excited to talk to another fan of classic dinosaur films and I'll never forget his insistence that I speed to his home with all due haste so we could discuss these matters in the hallowed halls of the "Ackermansion." It didn't seem to impact him that I was in Kansas and he lived in LA.

It wasn't an exclusive invitation at all. When he was home and feeling well, he opened the Ackermansion - and the Acker mini-mansion after he downsized - to people wanting to see the huge collection of horror and sc-fi memorabilia housed there. In 2005, after concluding a Route 66 trip to LA, I tried to take him up on the offer but he was at a sci-fi convention in Europe. I had so wanted to photograph the vampire jackalope with a cape given Forry by Bele Lugosi.

And now Forry is gone - wolfsbane to ashes, Tanna leaves to dust.

...makes me so sad that I want my mummy (bad pun in honor of you, Forry).

Monday, December 01, 2008

Go Outside

Venus (below), Jupiter and the crescent moon are rather pleasing tonight. Both of these pictures were taken at twilight, just a short while ago on December 1, 2008. The real difference is the exposure. The one above was exposed for the sky; you can even see the faint image of the rest of the moon, shown in Earth-light.

And this one was exposed for the moon and the planets.

Now get out from in front of your computer and appreciate the benefits of a transparent atmosphere.

Kansas City Southern's Holiday Express

The Kansas City Southern Railroad's Holiday Express train has begun its seasonal run through parts of the Midwest and the South. If you're a Christmas enthusiast or just want something free with which to entertain the kids, I highly recommend it.

Read all about it in a story we did last year.

And if you're a railfan, remember the Holiday Express is pulled by the re-powered classic streamlined passenger diesels of Kansas City Southern's current version of the Southern Belle.

As with anything like this, there can be changes so you should always check the schedule at the KCS website for updates before you plan anything.

12/01 4PM Jefferson, TX, Downtown Between East Austin Street & Lafayette

12/02 4PM Wylie, TX, Marble Street

12/03 4PM Sulphur Springs, TX, 400 Martin Luther King Road
(In Front of Pacific Park)

12/04 4PM Vicksburg, MS, Levee Street Station, 1000 Levee Street at the foot of Grove Street

12/05 4PM Mena, AR, 524 Sherwood Avenue

12/06 4PM Heavener, OK, KCS Yard, 403 West First Street

12/07 4PM Noel, MO, Old KCS Depot

12/08 4PM Pittsburg, KS, Monroe & Elm Streets

12/10 4PM Blue Springs, MO, Main Street

12/11 4PM Odessa, MO, Mason Street

12/12 4PM Marshall, MO, Lyon Street

12/13 4PM Mexico, MO, 326 South Jefferson Street

12/14 4PM Pearl, IL, Main Street

12/15 4PM Godfrey, IL, Pearl Street

12/16 4PM Roodhouse, IL, Old Depot

12/17 4PM Slater, MO, Depot

12/18 4PM Higginsville, MO, Depot

12/19 4PM Grain Valley, MO, East of Main Street

12/20 9:30AM-5:30PM Kansas City, MO, Union Station

12/21 Noon-5:30PM Kansas City, MO, Union Station