The Lope: February 2009

Saturday, February 28, 2009


See the crescent above? That's Venus, still in the crescent phase described in yesterday's post about the moon and Venus, but one night later in better viewing conditions. It is still very close to Earth and very bright. It amazes me that I can get any sort of detail in Venus at all, especially with what is technically a point-and-shoot camera, albeit a 20x one.

Technical stuff for Venus picture: Canon PowerShot SX10 IS, ISO 100, 1/250 sec, f:5.7 (wide open), 100mm (35mm equivalent - 560mm)). Slight hazing around crescent was cleaned up in Photoshop.

Go Kathleen!

AP reports White House sources say Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius has been tapped by President Barack Obama for the post of secretary of health and human services.

I'm jazzed about this, as Sebelius has taken very good care of Kansas in her years of service not only as governor but as state insurance commissioner.

She was elected to the insurance commissioner position in 1994 (a very Republican year) after refusing insurance company contributions, and subsequently stood up to the insurance industry by blocking the sale of Blue Cross of Kansas to an out-of-state corporation that was likely to raise premiums. She has also championed a national bill of rights for patients.

Our motto in Kansas is Ad Astra Per Aspera - "To the Stars Through Difficulties." The stars are a wondrous goal but I'll settle for workable health care system for now.

My only regret, aside from losing her as governor, is that she won't be in my environs for photo ops such as the one at top, with Ace Jackalope at the 2005 Kansas State Fair

Our gov is one seriously photogenic woman. Here she is in Kansas City at the October 18 Obama campaign rally.

before the Greensburg tornado hit in 2007, she was already critical of the Bush administration's allocation of National Guard resources in Iraq, rather than keeping a larger contingent in the US for such disasters.

My photos of Sebelius from an appearance with Bill Clinton seem to be the ones that come up in image searches most often, but they're not my favorites.

Friday, February 27, 2009


(updated Feb 28, 2009)

Just as last night, we had a pleasant conjunction of the crescent moon and Venus tonight, but they appeared much closer to each other. In this photo you can see some detail in the dark part of the moon. This is due to light from Earth (which of course came from the sun) bouncing onto the moon. The darker area that sits in the crescent is caused by a thin cloud.

This happened even though Venus is in a crescent phase because it is so close to us right now. NASA has a great page explaining this.

Conjunctions (celestial objects appearing close together from our viewpoint) of the moon and Venus are not uncommon but this one was more dramatic in that Venus was at its brightest - 20 times brighter than the brightest star in the sky, Sirius.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Star Lineup

Actually, neither are stars. I walked outside this evening (February 26, 2009) and saw this alignment of Venus and the crescent moon. I was in the center of Hutchinson, KS - not the best place to get a photo without pesky street lights. Twilight would fade too fast to make it into the country so I headed to the Kansas State Fairgrounds (our under-utilized version of Central Park) where this pictures was made.

You can really see the Earth shine (light from the sun reflected from the Earth and onto the moon) in this exposure. If you like moon/planet alignments, I shot several in December.

Watch for Venus to be even closer to the moon on Friday night (February 27).

Dear Guest - Don't Steal our Stuff

Next to the obligatory plastic cups and the sign offering free toothpaste to forgetful travelers was this plastic sign in my room at the Gainesville, Texas, Quality Inn a couple weeks ago. One could almost be offended that they're implying you might take something.

I mean, who steals a generic Quality Inn item anyway? Quality Inn, mind you.

Maybe people who fancy they need a towel or a hair dryer take them. I think if I stole something like that, it'd end up being the tell-tale hair dryer, revealing itself to the Interstate Hotel Stuff Police after I screamed "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! - open my cabinets! here, here! - It is the whirring of the hideous hair dryer!"

I was tempted about 20 years ago when I stayed at the Dinosaur Inn in Vernal, Utah, and they had these dinosaur logo-printed pillow cases. With some effort, I hunted down the head housekeeper and she apologetically told me she'd have to charge four dollars. I've seldom forked over four bucks faster.

Of course, I did inherit a Holiday Inn ashtray with the cool googie sign printed on it from one of my relatives and I don't think Holiday Inn sold those things, so maybe I'd better get off my moral high horse.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ottery Togetherness?

Since I published it over two years ago, Ottery Goodness, which deals with the Hutchinson (Kansas) Zoo's otters, has been one of my more popular posts.

Fans of Kyra (right) and Willy the otters will be amused to know that Kyra had a little adventure of late, but is now re-united with Willy, who apparently missed her.

Today's Hutchinson News details Kyra's escape on Valentines Day (which, apparently otters do not dedicate to togetherness) and subsequent return this past Sunday after an 8-day adventure.

Alas for romantic in us all, it was not ottery amour - nor even...uh...the sweet smell of Willy's manure - that lured Kyra back home. Zookeeper Heather Ladd lured her back with a hard-boiled egg.

See a video of Kyra and Willy frolicking in last month's Afternoon at the Hutchinson Zoo.

Mardi Gras 2009

Happy Mardi Gras! Ace found a suitable background courtesy of decor at Creatures of Habit of Paducah, KY.

Some previous Mardi Gras posts:

In 2006 we took a look at Saint Louis Cemetery # 1 in New Orleans.

In 2007 we showed more of the cemetery.

And in 2008 lovely Natalya Haden lent a bit of sparkle.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ace Goes to Hollywood

In August of 2005 Ace Jackalope and his entourage took a trip to LA along Route 66. Once there, we headquartered in Hollywood for a few days.

I'm not much of a movie person, but with the Oscars coming up tomorrow I thought I'd post some pictures of the area in which all those shiny statues are handed out.

The Kodak Theatre is that white Egyptian-inspired complex tucked away in the Highland Center, a conglomeration of shops, restaurants, nightclubs, theaters and the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue.

The Kodak Theatre is neither old, nor historic; it was finished in 2001 and was built specifically to host the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, according to Wikipedia, which also mentions that Kodak paid $75,000,000 to have the theater named for them.

I suppose the style of the exterior of the theatre is a current incarnation of Egyptian Revival, a style of architecture which pops up regularly whenever a culture becomes infatuated with ancient Egypt, or sometimes when a colossal statement of ego is required. That's Hollywood.

The Kodak Theater is adjacent to the Grauman's Chinese Theatre, which opened in 1927 with much fanfare.

The exterior of the theatre was made to resemble a giant Chinese pagoda and, according to the theatre's website, many of the decorative elements of the theatre were imported from China.

Sid Grauman was the personality most associated with the theatre, but he wasn't the sole owner. Silent film personalities Howard Schenck, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks were his partners, and in fact Grauman actually sold his interest in 1929. He continued on as Managing Director until his death in 1950.

According to Wikipedia, Mann Theatres bought the place in 1973, and it was renamed Mann's Chinese Theatre. Mann Theatres bankrupted in 2000 and the building is now owned by a partnership comprising Warner Brothers and Paramount Pictures. In 2002 the original name was restored to the business, so it's Grauman's Chinese Theatre again.

Though grandiose, Grauman's is not immune to the business trends that influenced small-town theatres. In recent years, a modern six-plex theatre was added.

But it's really the forecourt of Grauman's that attracts tourists. The theatre's website has a map of the various stars' footprints, hand prints, other sorts of prints in cement.

John Wayne wrote, "Sid, there are not enough words", and left an impression of his fist as well as his hands and feet on January 25 of 1950.

Michael Douglass left his impression in 1997 above that of his father, Kirk Douglass, who left his in 1962.

Patrolling the area are various faux stars, who pose for the tourists' cameras. Tips are appreciated. Catnip ain't free, ya know.

Speaking of Catwoman, Batman was here, or at least Michael Keaton was.

Marvel comic characters were also represented. I don't know why the chauffeur behind Spiderman was leaning away.

We also know where Harrison Ford likes to have a cup of coffee now and again. He left his impressions in 1992.

Cecil B deMille left his hand and boot prints on August 7 of 1941.

I saw only one Elvis at a time. I wonder if these guys have an Elvis duplicity agreement?

Charles Laughton was my favorite Hunchback of Notre Dame: "Why was I not made of stone like thee?"

Jimmy Stewart left his impression on Friday the 13th of February, 1948.

Coincidentally, but hardly in the same class, Jason from Friday the 13th was nearby, although somewhat of a wallflower. I guess he was waiting for one amorously sinful young woman or couple to wander away from the pack.

Danny Thomas left his impression on January 26, 1954.

Clark Gable

I had not previously known that among Supergirl's powers was super-whining. This daughter of Krypton was shouting "hey, we don't do this for free!" as I pointed the camera at her. I hadn't even asked her to pose; she was just there, walking around in front of tourists' cameras.

Thus, I was amused when I saw this story about the arrest of an over-aggressive wookie in 2007. Later that year, a man dressed as a wookie allegedly sexually assaulted a woman dressed as Marilyn Monroe in front of tourists. The blog "Defamer" reports: "According to an officer with the LAPD, Chewbacca allegedly took the platinum-coiffed actress's hand and placed it on his private parts as the characters performed for tips from tourists." I've seen guys who dress as wookies touch unusual things, but never Marilyn's...uhh...whatever it was.

Speaking of Marilyn, she had originally proposed making an impression of her derrière in the concrete, but was talked out of it. She left her hand and high-heeled shoe prints in 1953. It looks like this probably happened concurrent with the release of Gentleman Prefer Blonds.

The ABC News story about the wookie also mentions someone dressed as Elmo being arrested in 2006 for allegedly bothering tourists for money. I don't know if it was this Elmo, however. I'd hate to finger the wrong Muppet.

Notice the Jimmy Kimmel banners on the building across the street. That's the Hollywood Masonic Temple, built in 1922 and renovated by Disney more recently for use as a TV studio. It is currently used for Jimmy Kimmel Live (which is actually taped).

Tom Hanks left his impressions in 1998.

Gandolf The Gray says "You cannot pass"...without forking over some tourist bucks.

Ace meets the Terminator, right over Arnold Schwarzenegger's square.

I was told by nearby sports aficionados that this is NBA basketball personality Yao Ming. He wasn't looking for money; he was just passing by.

Ace Trek

The stars of the original Star Trek series were here for the show's 25th anniversary in 1991. It has been pointed out to me that George Takei used jazz hands. Those of you who attend sci-fi conventions will note how much better their signatures look here than on that autographed still you paid so much to have. Kinda makes you want more for your money, doesn't it?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Father Road

Yep, they named a highway after Abe Lincoln, and a fine road it is. We published a little overview of the route and looked at two good books on the subject in a post called The Lincoln Highway. And for lots of useful news of the Lincoln Highway, check out author Brian Butko's blog, Lincoln Highway News.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Neon Valentine

Instead of candy hearts, have a neon one, courtesy of a heart transplant between a defunct business and a new one that took its space.

Hartley's Furniture of Lee's Summit, Missouri, closed its doors after 54 years in business and Beauchamp's on the Rail BBQ, the new occupant of the renovated building, chose to keep the old Hartley's neon heart.

And to all our females out there - Happy Valentines Day!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lincoln's Tomb

Today is Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday. He's so ubiquitous in our pop culture that one could believe he's still running about like any other celebrity - but this granite tomb in Springfield, Illinois says differently.

The solemnity of Lincoln's tomb is surrounded by some very nice art and architecture, and the vicinity is garnished with no small amount of kitsch. Take a look, in a little story we called He Belongs to the Ages (but you can still buy a souvenir.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery

My one-post-a-day homage to Abraham Lincoln continues on the eve of his 200th birthday with a look back at a story I did last year on Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery on Route 66.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Rolling back into Lincoln, Illinois

I have updated last year's post about Lincoln, Illinois. Have a look, because you should never, ever pass up a giant fiberglass Lincoln.


Editor's note (Feb, 2010), Yes is on tour again and all is going well. What follows is a story from February of 2009 when a leg of that particular Yes tour was cancelled.

Howe Squire and White of Yes perform at the Pageant Theatre in St Louis, last Dec 2 on the first leg of the "In the Present" tour.

Chris Squire, bass player and co-founder of progressive rock band, Yes, was taken ill February 9, 2009, forcing the postponement of a Houston concert - the second show in the second leg of the tour.

Early reports on a fan site indicated the problem was a blood clot in the 60 year-old bass player's leg but there has been no statement from Squire's family or the band as to the specific nature of the problem.

Over the next few days, news of further postponements and cancellations surfaced - first via rumor on fan sites, then eventually confirmed by ticket vendors, venues and the band's website - pretty much in that order. The entire remaining tour was eventually cancelled, including dates previously postponed.

In brighter days, an amused Chris Squire poses with Ace Jackalope in St Louis, December 2, 2008.

I've photographed Yes a few times over the years both as a fan and as a photojournalist. Here, Squire tours with the group in support of the album, "Tormato", in Tulsa, 1978

Squire pauses at the Tulsa Assembly Center in 1980 after a concert in the "Drama" tour.

Times have been problematic of late for the senior members of Yes. Jon Anderson, 64, the other co-founder of the group, was stricken in 2008 with respiratory problems which forced the cancellation of the group's summer 2008 tour. Here, Anderson greets attendees of an Anderson/Wakeman show at Southend-on-Sea, England, in October of 2006. He was intrigued with Ace and was comparing the mythological aspects of jackalopes with that of unicorns when someone - a manager, I think - reminded him there was a line of people behind me.

Jon Anderson performs with Yes in Tulsa, 1978. It is Anderson that wrote most of the groups lyrics which are, depending on the listener, either spiritually deep, meaningless and pretty, or somewhere in between.

Squire and Anderson with Yes in Tulsa, 1978

28 years laster, Jon Anderson performs at Southend-on-Sea in October of 2006. I got this one picture of the Anderson/Wakeman show before a rather stern usher swooped down on me.

Anderson's role as vocalist for Yes was eventually filled by Benoit David for the late 2008/early 2009 "In the Present" tour.

In a story that could only happen in this era, David was discovered by Squire as the result of a You Tube video.

In addition to playing in the tribute band, Close to the Edge, David also sings for prog rock band, Mystery.

A post on Jon Anderson's website expressed displeasure over the group's decision to tour without him, but that post was later removed.

It isn't the first time the group has toured without Anderson, as seen above in the aptly named 1980 "Drama" tour.

That tour took place with Trevor Horn (above) and Geoff Downes (Below) of The Buggles (Video Killed the Radio Star) taking the places of Anderson and keyboard player Rick Wakeman, who had quit the group.

This was a temporary state; Yes disbanded shortly thereafter. Horn found his niche in record production while Downes found his greatest fame as keyboardist for Asia. After a period during which Yes had disbanded, Anderson returned and the re-formed Yes put out the album, "90125" in 1983 with the hit "Owner of a Lonely Heart." It was a well-crafted album and appealing in its own right, but lacked the quasi-mystical quality of the Yes I had grown to love, and so I lost interest in them for almost two decades.

Over the years, Rick Wakeman would return...and leave again...and return...and leave...

Which reminds me, Yes has had more lineups than I can keep track of, and as I am adept at minutia, that's saying something.

I got interested in the group again when the classic lineup - Howe, White (not visible behind drums) Anderson, Squire and Rick Wakeman - toured in 2002. Here they are in Bonner Springs, Kansas. Only disposable cameras were allowed in, but I managed to get away with using a very small 3x 35mm camera until an usher saw the lens protruding.

Back to "In the Present" - In addition to Squire and David, the current roster (those that actually performed most recently) consists of guitarist Steve Howe...

Steve Howe in Tulsa, 1978

Steve Howe in Tulsa, 1980

Howe at Bonner Springs, Kansas, in 2002

Drummer, Alan White in St Louis, 2008 (above and below).

White remarked that a jackalope in a Yes shirt is silly, but posed anyway.

Alan White in Tulsa after a show in the Drama tour, 1980.

Yes' new Keyboardist, Oliver Wakeman, has toured with his own band as well as playing keyboards for Starcastle. He's also got an upcoming run of gigs with the Strawbs.

Oliver Wakeman with Ace Jackalope and half-eaten sandwich. When I asked O. Wakeman if he would pose, he replied with a jovial and proper British "if it would please you."

Oliver (above) is the son of Rick Wakeman (below), who was keyboardist through most of what is considered to be Yes' classic period back in the 70s.

That's Anderson in the background and White at right in Tulsa back in 1978.

Rick Wakeman, Bonner Springs, Kansas, 2002

A very tired Rick Wakeman poses with Ace at Southend-on-Sea, UK, in October of 2006. Shortly after this, Wakeman announced his intention to retire from large-scale touring and would later recommend his son as his replacement in Yes.

Segues like this, whether smooth as in the Wakeman passage from father to son, or more controversial like the Anderson/David transition, leave fans to debate when a group stops being...well, that group and becomes a band playing in tribute to its former self.

It's a subjective question, really. For me, when the feel of the music is lost, it's over and I stop buying a ticket.

Fortunately, Yes isn't there yet.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Lincolnville, Kansas

I do not know if Lincolnville, Kansas, was named in honor of Abraham Lincoln (perhaps one of you do?) but if 1872 was the year of its founding, it's a good bet.

I first came across the town while scouting for places to photograph Union Pacific's 844 steam locomotive on its pass through this area in August of 2007. I didn't end up using Lincolnville as a location, but I did snap this shot of a train rumbling past amber waves of grain.

The Lincolnville grain elevator was one location I considered. It was near there on that Saturday morning that I encountered the only two living souls I saw in Lincolnville - a man and his son, whom I told about the antique iron horse that would soon glide through their town like a black ghost. It gave me a chance to feel like an outsider with exciting news, much as the train was once a main conveyance of news from the outside.

They seemed interested and I told them to check the UP website. It felt odd to say "website" in such a rural setting, but I suppose we're almost all online now, and thus cable replaces a steel rail.

I drove about the little town longer than I really needed to. I remember wondering what it would be like to live in this town of 225 (2000 census) - enough like Central and Western Kansas that the skies are still big, but with more of that Eastern Kansas deciduous forest feel.

As to the human element, one blogger recalls her days as a teacher there and says that "Livestock outnumbered young, single females."

I did notice a sign last year for an Octoberfest in Lincolnville in early October. I bet that has some charm to it.

There's at least one local attraction - this stone castle in a yard along highway 77.

You could think of this downtown as desolate. Or you could note two points of interest to the roadside aficionado.

One was this sputnik ball, a photo of which I was happy to use for Sputnik's anniversary.

And this - a giant hammer. One should not underestimate the charms to the roadside enthusiast of a giant...well, a giant anything. Maybe someone should give that hammer to one of the giant Lincolns.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Dark Day Preserved

The Kansas Underground Salt Museum has on display a copy of the New York Post published on April 16, 1865 - the day after President Abraham Lincoln died from an assassin's bullet.

The newspaper, along with one dated April 14, 1865, are displayed in an area of the museum dedicated to exhibits owned by the adjacent Underground Vaults and Storage, a company that stores materials in the stable temperature and humidity of the salt mines under Hutchinson, Kansas.

An article in one of the middle columns of the front page of the April 16 paper reads:

Washington, April 15 -- 4:40 P.M.


The sun set last night upon a jubilant and rejoicing
people. The whole nation was exhilarated with the
success which had attended our armies in the field and
the final overthrow of the rebellion. But it rose this
morning upon a sorrow-stricken people. The flags which
had waved from almost every housetop were lowered to
half-mast, the sunshine of yesterday was changed to
mourning and weeping and the day at Washing-
ton was heralded by the tolling of bells an-
nouncing to a sorrowing people the departure
of the spirit of him who but yesterday was
the chief magistrate of the nation

Also on the front page are a few details about John Wilkes Booth. I did not know that he dropped his hat in his escape from Ford Theatre or that fellow actors identified him.

The entire front page is a good read, not only for news of the assassination but for the other matters of the day, as well as the editorial attitude of the publication and the language used. It is curious that the newspaper is printed imperfectly, with creases interfering with the inking of the text.

The newspaper is part of the permanent display at the museum and is not a special exhibit for the upcoming 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. I highly recommend the exhibit area as well as the rest of the museum.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Where's That Abe?

Among the many behemoths that dot the great American landscape are at least two giant Abraham Lincolns. With the 200th anniversary of Abe's birth drawing near, we offer a fun quiz with two of these. Do you know where the one above happens to reside?

And where is this young and lanky Lincoln?

Hint: both are on or near Route 66.

Another hint: There's a reason I cropped the one at top so tightly. Had I shown more of his surroundings, your job would be too easy.

I shan't wait four score years to reveal the answers, so get to googling.

Seated in Your Pocket

As part of our continuing offering of things Lincoln in honor of his 200th birthday, here is an homage to Abe in the rotunda of the Colorado State Capitol Building in Denver - a miniature bronze replica of Daniel Chester French's statue of the seated Abraham Lincoln that he designed for the Lincoln Memorial. (2007 photo)

Here is the main version in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. In designing the statue, French used Lincoln's life mask, casts of the President's hands and photos by civil war era photographer Matthew Brady. (1982 photo)

The Lincoln Memorial was dedicated in 1922. (1982 photo)

Smaller versions exist in, among other places, Lincoln's tomb in Springfield, Illinois. See other Lincoln statues in our 2006 visit to Lincoln's tomb, here. (2006 photo)

Incidentally, you are probably carrying a small representation of French's seated Lincoln statue in your pocket. Check the back of most U.S. pennies and you'll see the Lincoln Memorial with a very tiny relief version of the statue in the center. (image from wikipedia)

Friday, February 06, 2009

A Taste of Lincoln, Missouri

It is less than a week until Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday, so we're taking a look at places that do homage to our favorite dead president. Lincoln, Missouri was almost named Vincentville back in 1860, according to the town's website, but it 1869 it was named for the late president.

According to their foam cups (and has a cup ever lied to you?), the Estes Drive-In opened in Lincoln 100 years later.

We stopped at the Estes Drive-In last June 29 during the "Food Coma Caravan."

The Food Coma Caravan is an event cobbled together by our friends Carl and Kris, who gather a small bunch of us to partake in the independent restaurants and motels of Kansas and Missouri at least once a year.

I don't remember what this was, but it was decadent.

I've been noticing drive-in menu art. Some of it reminds me of carnival artwork.

The Estes also serves guberburgers, a regional delicacy best known from the Wheel Inn in Sedalia, Missouri.

Nearby, Wright's Machine Shop displays a vintage outdoor clock.

PaPa Joe's Restaurant, also close-by, has a decent sign, if somewhat in need of definition.

The Lincoln Antique Mall was above par for such places when measured on my scale, which gives great weight to mid-20th century retro stuff.

One example of which is this stroller. It almost makes me want a kid. But then, I'd have to share my ice cream and guberburger, and I don't want that.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Where is Ace Jackalope? (episode 27)

Ace gazes up and wonders if Superman arranged for this thing in a most unexpected place. The Man of Steel wouldn't actually have any cover up there, and might be seen by many in this town that ought be drawing a lot of attention very soon. Where is Ace Jackalope?

Monday, February 02, 2009

Groundhog Day

"If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning, so it's six more weeks of Winter.

Read about Groundhog Day, Brigit's Day, Candlemas and Wilma the Hutch Zoo groundhog in 2007's Groundhog Day or Prairie Dog Day.