Time of the Season

It was fun while it lasted. Jasen Dixon set up The World’s First Zombie Nativity Scene in 2014. He says he almost didn’t bring it back this year and definitely won’t next year. The display faced legal challenges and a certain amount of outrage during its first two years but it seems things were fairly quiet last Christmas season. From the beginning, the display had at least as many fans as detractors, and, while the number of those in favor has increased, the number of those actively opposed has fallen dramatically. For some it was a practical matter. After 27 misdemeanor charges and $13,500 in fines were dropped early last year, Sycamore Township officials decided “It’s not worth the expense…”.

In 2015 I included a couple of daytime pictures of the Zombie Nativity in some comments tacked onto a Christmas time blog post. This year I snapped both day and night shots. I ended my 2015 comments with the observation that I thought “…a new local Christmas tradition has been established.” Whether or not you think that was right depends on whether or not you think the word “tradition” has any business being associated with something something that lasts just four years.

The title for this post comes from a 1968 hit song from the band The Zombies. I listened to a lot of stuff from them back in the day but I’d been smitten by zombie music long before. I remember singing along to this Kingston Trio recording from an older cousin’s collection as a pre-teenager. In searching for that 1959 performance I discovered a really cool one by Rockapella and another by the great Harry Belafonte.

Open House at Octagon Mound

It’s not really a house and it’s never actually closed but an “open house” is what the Ohio History Connection calls each of the four days a year that tours are conducted and the general public is permitted inside Octagon Mound at Newark, Ohio. On all other days, access is restricted to members and guests of Moundbuilders Country Club who has leased the property since 1910. While that may sound disrespectful or even sacrilegious, the arrangement has provided a degree of protection that not all area mounds have received. Octagon Mound is part of the largest group of geometric mounds in the world. In addition to the octagon and an attached circle, Newark Earthworks once included a larger circle, a square, and an ellipse along with several pairs of long mounds connecting the geometric figures. The ellipse and all but a fragment of the square have been obliterated and covered over by the city of Newark. Just over forty miles to the southwest, a huge circle mound that gave the city of Circleville its name has been destroyed and buried under that city. In comparison, maybe having a few golfers wandering around isn’t so bad.

Last Monday, July 31, was an Open House day with hourly tours starting at noon. I was there in time for the first one but, after listening to the guides pre-tour comments, I stayed behind when the group headed off to enter the enclosure. The group seemed overly large to me and I thought I might do better with a later tour.

Instead I took the opportunity to look at the map the guide had referenced as he spoke then walked to a nearby observation platform. The platform allows the public to peek inside the enclosure even on days when they are not permitted inside. The picture at the top of this post was also taken from the platform. A path that runs part way around the attached circle is also always available to all and I traveled it while awaiting the next tour. A feature of the circle opposite its connection to the octagon stands several feet higher than the circle itself and has been given the name Observatory Mound. The path leads to within sight of Observatory Mound but doesn’t quite reach it. Walking beyond the path is permitted today and I continued on to the raised section.

The second tour contained nearly as many people as the first so I didn’t help myself much by waiting. I did stick with this one, however. As we paused at the opening to the interior, the guide pointed out that the approximately five foot tall mounds were at an almost ideal height for an adult human to use as sighting lines. Of course, as you can see, smaller creatures can sight along them as well if they position themselves properly. Following an overview of where we were and where we were going, the group headed across the big enclosure without fear of being beaned by a golf ball.

In the first picture we are walking between the parallel mounds that connect the octagon to the circle. The arrangement suggests a walkway. Similar pairs of mounds once connected the area around the octagon with other geometric figures in the complex and possibly with points much farther away. In the second picture we are approaching Observatory Mound and in the third most of the group is arrayed on the mound’s side listening to the guide. The purpose of Observatory Mound is one of the many mysteries associated with the structures. It may have actually been built as something of an observatory. The northernmost rising of the moon can be viewed from it through the circle, octagon, and connecting mounds. It looks as if there was once another opening into the circle at Observatory Mound so it might have been built to close the entrance. The truth is that no one knows and likely never will.

The cluster’s only other surviving enclosure, Great Circle Mound, lies roughly a mile from Octagon Mound. It is also owned by the state and it isn’t leased to a country club or anyone else. It can be visited at any time. These photos were taken near the small museum that stands near the entrance to the circle. The entrance can be seen in the second photo. A large ditch runs along the inside of the circular mound. Much of the material making up the mound was taken from the ditch during construction but there is also evidence that the ditch held water once the structure was completed. Why is just another of the complex’s mysteries.

The Newark Earthworks contain no solar alignments but there are a number of lunar alignments. This fact adds to the mystery since predicting the moon’s movements is a tougher job than predicting those of the sun and their role in daily life is much smaller. The picture of lunar alignments was taken inside the museum. The Ancient Ohio Trail website offers excellent information on the Newark Earthworks as well as other Ohio sites.

Vikings: Beyond the Legend

After a couple of aborted attempts, I finally made it to the Vikings: Beyond the Legend exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center. A multi-year rehabilitation of Union Terminal, the Museum Center’s home, has begun and has closed all museum areas except for the Children’s Museum, the space used for traveling exhibits such as this, and the ticket and information counter seen at right. The counter is actually the front part of the large ticket and information facility in the center of the terminal’s large rotunda. A portion of the rotunda has been enclosed to provide the pictured entrance area. That impressive rotunda with its huge murals is just on the other side of those walls. The Children’s Museum and the traveling exhibit space are both on the lower level which is what allows them to remain open. A window has been installed along the path to the lower level which allows visitors to peek into some of the emptied and stripped museum space awaiting attention.

The exhibit of more than 500 artifacts opened in November and will remain through April. It is the largest collection of Viking artifacts to ever visit North America and Cincinnati is its first stop. It also has the distinction of being the largest exhibit, in terms of physical size, to appear at the Cincinnati Museum Center. For most, the word Viking conjures up an image of a large rough looking fellow with a huge ax or sword who is constantly pillaging and burning with a little time off to guzzle mead. As the subtitle “Beyond the Legend” implies, the exhibit is intended to give attendees a somewhat more rounded view. That intention is reinforced with the advertising slogan “The horns are fake. The beards are real.”

Vikings were not a race or even a nation. In fact, they didn’t use the word to identify themselves but to identify something they did. To go viking meant to go on an adventure. Sometimes they did go viking in order to pillage and burn but often it was to trade or explore. The exhibit includes plenty of items from their peaceful farms and villages and there are many examples of fine craftsmanship and artistry. Of course not all of items found in the Viking’s Scandinavian homelands were made there. Many were obtained through trading or raiding.

Apparently raiding still forms a major portion of my personal Viking image. I looked over reproductions of clothing and was actually quite impressed by the many examples of artistic metal work but when I got home and looked at the pictures I’d taken, I found mostly weapons or heavy tools. It’s possible that they were just the most photogenic but it seems at least as likely that they simply fit my preconceived notion of the Viking world.

But perhaps even more than the beards and swords, my concept of Vikings is fueled by the visual of a sleek longship floating gracefully through a fjord. The Vikings: Beyond the Legend exhibit includes four ships. A glimpse of the 21 foot long Karl, a reconstruction, can be seen at the left side of the dim photo marking this article’s second paragraph. The first picture here is of part of a ghost ship defined by metal rivets suspended where they would have held the long ago rotted planks of a hull in place. The second is of the 26 foot Krampmacken. In the 1980s, this reconstructed merchant ship sailed from the island of Gotland to Istanbul. The last picture shows the reason this is physically the largest exhibit mounted by the Cincinnati Museum Center. At 122 feet long, the Roskilde 6 is the longest Viking ship ever discovered. The ship is outlined by a modern skeleton that holds approximately 25% of the thousand year old hull in place. This is the first time it has been displayed outside of Europe.

These are reproductions of three of the more than 3,200 rune stones have been found throughout Scandnavia. Scholars consider the Viking Age to be bounded by their destruction of the abbey at Lindisfarne in 783 CE and their defeat at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066. During that time Christianity made major progress in replacing the worship of a collection of gods headed by Odin. While the rune stones were typically erected to commemorate some significant event, many include Christian components and some think they may have at least partially been advertisements for the newer religion.

Da Vinci — The Genius

dvtg01A new exhibit opened at the Cincinnati Museum Center just over a week ago. Da Vinci — The Genius opened on Friday the 20th and I was there on Monday. It’s a dandy. The exhibit is billed as having “17 themed galleries” and I’m sure that’s true. Another simpler — though not entirely accurate — view is that’s its the “Mona Lisa” and everything else. I say that because the “Mona Lisa” display is quite large and is different from the others. It is the last area reached in the exhibition and the last discussed here.

The bulk of the exhibit consists of modern implementations of devices envisioned by da Vinci some five centuries ago. Using his drawings and descriptions and utilizing materials available when the the ideas were committed to paper, more than 70 of da Vinci’s concepts have been brought to life. Most are full size.

dvtg02dvtg03Devices related to flight appear early in the exhibit. The photo at the top of this article is of the helicopter-like Vite Aerea. In addition to wings, screws, and propellers targeting actual flight, da Vinci sketched out mechanisms intended to test ideas or measure natural forces. Almost all of his “flying machines” were impractical because of weight or other issues. A partial exception is the “parachute” seen in the foreground of the second picture. In 2000, British daredevil Adrian Nichols stepped out of a hot air balloon with a ‘chute built to da Vinci’s specifications. Jumping from 10,000 feet, Nichols rode the 500 year old design to within 2,000 feet of the surface before turning to something more modern. Freeing himself from the pyramid shaped device and deploying something more up to date was not because of any failure of the device to do its job but to prevent being injured by the heavy wood frame on landing.

dvtg06dvtg05dvtg04Leonardo’s earth bound inventions were more viable. The second picture is of a machine used to cut threads on a shaft. The third picture shows an area that breaks from the normal “hands off” museum policy. Here attendees are encouraged to touch and operate the mechanisms to better understand the principles involved and to better appreciate da Vinci’s genius. Da Vinci didn’t invent the “Out of Order” sign but it can be useful in his world. On the day of my visit the Ingranaggio a Lanterna don’t work cause the vandals took the handle.

dvtg08dvtg09dvtg10Enlarged examples of da Vinci’s anatomy studies are displayed as are reproductions of several other drawings and paintings. His “Last Supper” is the subject of a video. The anatomical drawings demonstrate da Vinci’s talent but are also evidence of his boundless curiosity. It’s obviously good to have a healthy supply of both but I find myself thinking that curiosity without talent is to be preferred over talent without curiosity.

dvtg13dvtg12dvtg11A sad truth is that concocting dreadful machines of war was frequently da Vinci’s “day job”. That’s not to say that it was entirely unpleasant to him. He had an interest in the science and art of war at an early age but he often obtained patronage for his artistic endeavors by promising the means to destroy enemies. He certainly wasn’t the last artist/scientist to find that the case.

dvtg14Of his Stanza Degli Specchi, an eight-sided mirrored room, da Vinci said that someone in it “will be able to see every part (of himself) endless times”. There are, of course, parts of me that you are better off not seeing even once but this from-the-shoulder shot is alright.

dvtg17dvtg16dvtg15In 2004, researcher Pascal Cotte was given unparalleled access to the original “Mona Lisa”. The painting was removed from its frame and photographed multiple times with a purpose-built ultra-high-resolution multispectral camera. Analysis of the captured data has resulted in things like an understanding of the original colors and a possible explanation for the apparent absence of eyebrows and lashes. The data was also used to produce a full-sized replica of the original. That’s it in the second picture. That’s also it in the third picture in a true “dark side of the moon” rear view. The two large portraits on the far wall relate to Cotte’s most controversial claim. Cotte believes that four fairly distinct layers can be identified in the painting and that one is an almost finished picture of a completely different woman than the one visible on the surface. On the right is a recreation of that other portrait. Everyone agrees the the painting changed during the many years da Vinci worked on it. Some authorities, however, believe all changes were along the lines of constant tweaking. They are not ready to accept that substantially completed layers were overlaid with other entire layers.

dvtg18Leonardo da Vinci is believed to have spent about fourteen years on the “Mona Lisa” and he still wasn’t entirely done with it when he died. You can use your mobile phone and a chair, frame, and background provided by the museum to complete your own in a fraction of a second. Bring your own Lisa.

Da Vinci — The Genius runs until September 25. Major restoration work will close much of the Museum Center on July 1. The Children’s Museum and the da Vinci exhibit space are in the basement and will remain open. Entry will continue to be through the main doors of Union Terminal.

Mo’ Bricks

brickmas01How big is Cincinnati? Big enough to simultaneously support two major LEGO exhibits. That’s how big. The Art of the Brick opened at the Cincinnati Museum Center on October 23. It runs through May 1. Down at Newport on the Levee, BRICKmas opened November 25. It runs through January 1. The Art of the Brick is the work of a single artist, Nathan Sawaya. BRICKmas is the work of lots of people coordinated by the Ohio Kentucky Indiana LEGO Users Group (OKILUG).

brickmas02I visited The Art of the Brick back in November and posted a blog entry here. I visited BRICKmas just over a week ago (Dec 12) with my daughter and grandson. Theoretically, BRICKmas could have been the subject of last week’s blog post but that slot was already filled with the Saint Anne’s Hill Christmas Tour. I considered doing a “bonus” post but decided to make it easy on myself and save BRICKmas for this week. Here is what I did eight days ago.

brickmas04brickmas03BRICKmas fills two separate areas. The first contains several large and complex displays. Each has a theme and some are reproductions of specific scenes or locations. Electric trains and other moving items add life.

brickmas05brickmas06brickmas07The folks who made the displays clearly had a lot of fun and a lot of imagination. I learned later that there is a Santa Claus figure in each display. We spotted a couple but didn’t know to look for them. There were also quite a few non-Santa figures in the displays that were equally out of place. Some were hidden. Others not. The pumpkin-headed horseman in the first picture to the left is actually in the area covered by the second picture in the preceding paragraph but he is hidden by a tree. The other two picture contain some rather incongruous figures in plain sight. There is some help in finding them here and here.

brickmas09brickmas08The Roebling Bridge model at the top of the article and both displays in the photos at right were in the second section. Here the individual items, like the full size heads, seemed larger, and the themed scenes, like the Sponge Bob Square Pants setting, seemed smaller. This section was more or less targeted at the younger attendees and this is where the play areas and do-it-yourself tables were. It was here that we noticed some kids with scavenger hunt type check lists. We were disappointed that we hadn’t received one but it was really too late to get overly concerned about it. Apparently the first thing we were supposed to find was the check list and we failed miserably.

brickmas10This picture was taken shortly after we arrived at the levee before visiting the BRICKmas displays. I’m going to pretend that it was at the end of the day as we’re about to head home. Even though Wesley’s drivers licence is a few years away, he’s pretty sure he could handle a little sleigh and a few reindeer.

The Art of the Brick

aotb01“Remember”, says Nathan Sawaya, “it all starts with one brick.” Sawaya is the artist responsible for all those LEGO® sculptures currently on display at Cincinnati’s Museum Center in “The Art of the Brick”. I failed to do my homework before visiting the exhibit on Monday though I actually think that might have helped as much as it hurt. Since I’m writing about it, I’m obviously not advocating that everyone attend with the level of ignorance I had but I can’t help but think my off target expectations caused me to be more impressed with some aspects of the exhibit than I would have been otherwise.

aotb02aotb03aotb04Museum mailings on the exhibit included “Make & Take” and “Harry Potter Building Part” promotions. Apparently those “fun & games” promises made more of an impression on me than the word “art” in the title. What I expected, I suppose, was a collection of technically impressive structures. My misconception was not immediately apparent as things started off with items that were either flat or fairly shallow base-relief. Most were copies of popular works which more or less supported the idea of “technically impressive”.

aotb07aotb06aotb05Next up were some fully 3-dimensional copies of some 2- dimensional works of art. These were followed by reproductions of some familiar 3-D sculptures. The technology was more complex and the results more impressive but it was still, you know…

aotb08aotb09Then things changed. I don’t really know what Sawaya had in mind when he chose the word “metamorphosis” to identify a particular subset of his work but I do know it fit what I experienced. When I first entered the exhibit I didn’t even know that it was the work of one man. I learned that during the introductory video. I now realized that the word “art” in the title was no accident. Venus de Milo and friends were essentially the last “reproductions” in the exhibit. Sawaya’s vision would pretty much rule from here on out. An athlete is captured mid-stroke in Swimmer. Facemask is a self portrait.

aotb12aotb11aotb10That Sawaya is a talented artist as well as a skilled technician becomes even more apparent in his “Human Condition” collection.

aotb13aotb14As Sawaya notes, Yellow is probably his best known piece. Its ability to grab attention gets it featured in plenty of ads and brochures. Full frontal shots are everywhere and oblique views aren’t uncommon. This “dark side of the moon” shot is a kind of rare, however. Sawaya also notes that it gets that attention from both young and old. For adults he conjectures that it is seen as a “cathartic ‘opening one self up to the world'” and for kids he thinks it’s “Probably because yellow guts spilling onto the floor looks cool.”

aotb15I know this isn’t very artsy. I guess it might even be considered a reproduction of sorts but it’s not a reproduction like that reproduction of Michelangelo’s David. In this entire exhibition made of children’s building blocks, this is the only piece that was made specifically with kids in mind. It isn’t life size but it is big — over six feet tall and a tad under twenty feet long — and it is certainly technically impressive. 80,020 pieces they say.

aotb16aotb17aotb18One more big surprise awaited. It’s a collaboration with photographer Dean West called “In Pieces”. The first picture shows a group of items constructed from LEGOs by Sawaya. The surrounding walls are lined with photographs in which the items are combined with people and other real-world elements. For example, the red dress can be seen being worn in the picture beyond it.

aotb20aotb19These two pieces near the very end of the exhibit may require a little explaining. Cincinnati was once the pork packing capital of the world. Porkopolis borrows the city’s one time nickname and flying pig mascot. Sawaya made the piece specifically for this exhibit. Hugman is the name of a style of sculpture that Sawaya likes to install in various cities he visits. The three shown here are special in that they are made of bricks by visitors to other exhibits. I may have even found one signed by an unknown relative. “The Art of the Brick” differs from most temporary exhibits at the museum by not only permitting but encouraging photos, even flash. That might be apparent simply by the number of photos in this article. That much appreciated photo policy made the purpose of that empty pole obvious to me even though it wasn’t exactly spelled out.

“The Art of the Brick” is at the Museum Center through May 1 and is definitely recommended.

On the Waterfront

rsrs01It was another full week in southern Ohio. The Cincinnati Film Festival continued and I caught a few more screening on board the Showboat Majestic. As she was being put to use for the first time in nearly two years, the wonderful old floating theater had some company. For three days, a ship from World War II was docked about a hundred yards down river from the Majestic and replicas of ships from an even earlier time parked a little upstream on the opposite bank for the entire duration of the festival. I eventually got to see all the waterborne visitors.

rsrs02rsrs03On Monday, I parked near the Majestic and walked over the Roebling Suspension Bridge for half-priced mac & cheese at Keystone Grill. There was hardly anyone at LST 325 when I passed her and I could have walked right on in. I foolishly decided to wait until I came back. The picture of the ship was taken from the Roebling. The Showboat Majestic can be seen just beyond her bow and sharp eyes may be able to make out the Nina and Pinta replicas over her bridge. By the time I ate and returned, there was a bit of a line but it wasn’t bad. It was time, however, for the first movie to start. Had I known it would start nearly an hour late, I’d have climbed aboard the old war ship. As it was, I walked around the showboat, including a rare visit to the unused balcony, while technical issues were worked through.

rsrs04I returned to the riverfront a little earlier on Tuesday with intentions of seeing both floating displays. I headed first to the Kentucky side of the river where those sailing ships were docked. The picture at the top of this post was taken then and, as you can see, both ships were fairly well occupied. School buses were parked near by and the dock area was crowded with students waiting their turn to board. I headed back to Ohio where more buses and a long line prompted me to delay my LST visit, too. I moved on to Smale Park and checked out the lower lever garden/playground. I took some pictures that I anticipated using in this post but can see it’s going to be quite big enough without them. I’ll do an entry on the playground someday but for now I’m just posting this single photo of another visitor.

rsrs05rsrs06rsrs07The Nina and Pinta replicas would be in town through Sunday. Not so the USS LST Ship Memorial. It was here for just three days. I’d already blown Monday by walking by and putting off boarding and I would be elsewhere Wednesday. Today was the day. I waited as long as I could then joined the line even though it was only slightly shorter than it had been in the morning. LST 325 has quite a story. Launched near the end of 1942, the LST (Landing Ship, Tank) played a role in the invasions of Sicily and Normandy as well as many other WWII operations before being decommissioned in July of 1946. She was reactivated and supported arctic construction projects between 1951 and 1961. In 1964 she was transferred to Greece where she remained until acquired by USS Ship Memorial, Inc., in 2000. Her permanent dock is in Evansville, Indiana. The three photos show visitors exiting the tank deck, the wheelhouse, and the main deck. One of the sleeping areas can be seen here and there’s a good view of the entire ship here.

rsrs10rsrs09rsrs08On Thursday I again stopped by the sailing ships docked in Newport, Kentucky, and learned that, while a crush of students like what I’d seen on Tuesday occurred every morning, afternoons were fairly calm. I was able to board with no delay. The Nina is nearest the camera in the first picture and the second is the view on her deck facing aft. The third picture is facing the Pinta’s bow from her upper deck. Both ships were hand built in Valenca, Brazil, using 15th century methods. They are quite accurate replicas of the ships Columbus sailed to and from America in 1492 although the modern Pinta is intentionally a little larger than the original. They have no home port as they are on the move ten or eleven months of the year. Check the website to see when you might have a chance to see them. Wheeling and Pittsburgh: Here they come.

Backyard History

gade01That’s George Ade’s backyard in the picture at right. Ade was a columnist, author, and playwright who was quite popular and successful as the nineteenth century wound down and the twentieth took its place. Prior to a few weeks ago, I didn’t know even that much about him. In fact, if I had ever heard his name before, I had forgotten it. I became aware of George Ade and his Indiana backyard while learning about my own “backyard”.

gade02gade03The source of my learning was and is a series of videos from History in Your Own Backyard which I’ll have more on once I’m explained the Ade connection. Each video ends with the catch phrase “Travel slowly, stop often” which, along with a longer quote that appears on screen to start each video, is attributed to George Ade. The quotes made me want to learn more about the man and at some point in my reading I realized I would be passing near his home on an imminent road trip. I did that last week and got these pictures of both the back and front yards of the place he called Hazelden Farm.

gade04Hazelden Farm is just outside of Brook, Indiana. Ade, who died in 1944, is buried a few miles south of there in Fairlawn Cemetery near Kentland. His writing has been compared to Mark Twain’s and the two humorists apparently knew each other and are said to have admired each other’s work. That, and the “Travel slowly, stop often” quote, is enough to generate some serious interest from me. So far, I’ve read just a little of Ade’s Fables in Slang but I will certainly be reading more. One place to learn more about George Ade is here.

hiyobhomeNow I’m ready to talk about History in Your Own Backyard. The project is the brainchild of Scenic Road Rallies owner Satolli Glassmeyer. It’s a rather simple concept. Each video tells the story of one historic structure in the tri-state (Indiana-Ohio-Kentucky) area. They serve to preserve the story and make it available through the project’s website and YouTube channel. That lets people like me learn about easily overlooked history that really is in our own backyards.

But the videos have an additional purpose and it shows in how they are made. The topics are well researched. The recording and editing are top notch and professional looking. The on screen interviewers and commentators are not quite so polished. They are amateurs who live in the area. Some are high school students getting a taste of and a little experience in working in front of a camera. More importantly, however, they gain a sense of ownership over both the production and its subject. Some of their friends and family probably do too. That is intentional and valuable.

Don’t get me wrong. These are not awkward camera shy klutzes stumbling over every word. They simply lack the poise and polish that experience brings. There could even be a future Barbara Walters or Larry King among them but, if so, they have a ways to go. Their sincerity, however, is never in doubt and that, along with some real enthusiasm, easily makes up for a little missing polish..

The project got started a little more than a year ago and the YouTube channel currently lists over a hundred videos. Some are of active businesses in historic building that include interviews with current owners. Others might have only a commentator in an empty building or on a deserted bridge. Some even use old photographs with Ken Burns style voice-over. The following promotional video, which looks to gain new viewers, participants, and subjects, explains things better than I can.

You don’t have to live in my neighborhood to enjoy the History in Your Own Backyard videos. A general interest in history and preservation will suffice. But, if you do live in the neighborhood, they will probably tell you something you didn’t know or had forgotten and almost certainly give you some ideas for that next drive around your “backyard”.

Ten and Twenty Years in Cincinnati

asm10bd2This coming Tuesday, April 28, marks the tenth anniversary of the opening of the American Sign Museum. Ten events are planned to celebrate the ten years of success and growth. First up was a birthday party, complete with cake and balloons, last Sunday. Others include special hours and gifts in conjunction with this year’s Major League Baseball All Star Game which will take place in Cincinnati and a gathering of an elite group of sign painters known as The Letterheads for their fortieth anniversary.

asm10bd3asm10bd4The Texas Weiners sign is a recent addition to the museum. Most signs like this have rusted away but this one survives because the flashing sign did not meet local codes and its owner was not permitted to install it. There’s a more complete version of the story here. I know I’ve posted several pictures of “Main Street” but there’s always room for one more and this one includes museum founder Tod Swormstedt taking a break in the chair at the far right.

My Oddment page on the museum’s 2005 opening is here and other blog posts on visits to the museum are here.


kcbp2kcbp1Krohn Conservatory has been around since 1933 but 2015 marks its twentieth butterfly show. This year Butterflys of the Philippines are featured. I actually set out to attend the show on its first day, April 3, and drove by the conservatory about half an hour after opening time. All parking spots were filled and there were a couple of school buses in the mix. Drive by was all I did. The building was hardly empty when I did stop on Monday but it was not overly crowded and there were no lines. The winding marked path and large tents indicated that long lines were fairly common and an attendant confirmed that lines were the norm on weekends.

kcbp3kcbp4kcbp5I’m not much of a butterfly expert but, with the aid of labeled photos viewable at the conservatory, I can say with some hope of being correct that these are pictures of a Julia Butterfly, a Zebra Longwing, and an Owl Butterfly.

Cincinnati the Exhibitionist

cte01I visited a few museums this week. One reason was that I realized some temporary exhibits I wanted to see would be ending soon but there was also a lot of happenstance involved. For those of us spared desperate last minute shopping, the week before Christmas seems to be rife with days needing to be filled with something and a little catching up fits nicely. This post will wander a bit but will eventually get around to explaining the nose shortage revealed in the photo above.

cte02cte03cte04Early in the week, I attended the Mummies of the World exhibition at Cincinnati Museum Center. No photos were permitted in the traveling display so I’ve included a picture of the museum’s resident mummy, Umi. Mummies of the World will be in Cincinnati through April 26. The third photo is of the museum’s giant Christmas tree backed by Union Terminal’s brightly painted half-dome. For those who feel a little disoriented by that shot, a more traditional view is here.

cte08cte07cte06On Friday, I went out for breakfast then decided it would be a good time for an overdue visit to the American Sign Museum. There is so much here that it’s often near impossible for me to know if a sign is truly a recent addition or simply something I’ve not noticed before. As I gawked my way around, founder Tod Swormstedt made a point of saying hello and verified that a couple of signs in the local area were indeed newly placed. I clearly remember driving and walking by the Wizard sign many times in the wild but do not recall ever being inside the Clifton area record shop. Tod also gave me a little behind the scenes tour that included a recently acquired 1944 sign truck that will be used in parades and other promotions.

cte10cte11This year’s Fotofocus was in October and, with the exception of Treasures in Black & White at the museum center, I pretty much missed it. However, some related exhibits are still in place. One of them isn’t too far from the Sign Museum so I figured this was a good time to visit it as well. Good thing, too. It had just two more days to run. Documenting Cincinnati’s Neighborhoods at Hebrew Union College contains examples of the work of three local photographers from the middle of the 1900s.

cte13ncte12Maybe realizing how close I came to missing the Neighborhoods exhibit scared me because I next headed straight to the Taft Museum where two photo exhibits were in progress. I didn’t really need to hurry, I suppose, since both Black, White, and Iconic: Photographs from Local Collections and Paris Night & Day: Masterworks of Photography from Atget to Man Ray continue through January 11. No pictures were allowed in either exhibit but amateur photos of photo masterpieces aren’t all that appealing anyway. On the other hand, what I believe is a fairly recent policy change, not only allows but encourages non-flash photography in the other areas of the museum. The two photos here are of displays in the museum’s annual Antique Christmas exhibit.

cte14That opening photo was also taken at the Taft. A trio of reindeer stands in the lobby with an oval cutout that allows anyone to be photographed as one of the group. Apparently red noses were once available so that adding a Rudolph like touch was an option. That option, it seems, was quite a bit more popular than anticipated which led to it currently being unavailable. BYON.