MUSEUM OF THE GULF COAST

February 3, 2013

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Every town museum we’ve visited on the gulf has photos of hurricane or flood damage. I couldn’t let Port Arthur slide without including the requisite disaster photo. This one from 1915.

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There is prehistory, Native Americans, discovery, explorers, natural history, documents, in one section. I chose this drawing of a wooly buffalo because it was drawn from a description. As was the horse in the upper right corner kicking up its heels. Kind of reminded me of the snub nosed Chinese lions, also drawn from descriptions. What a hoot!

Cannonball Jellyfish

Since we found two different types of jellyfish washed up on the beach, I was amazed to learn the numbers of them documented passing through  the channel at Port Aransas.

There is much to see here. A fantastic full wall mural that alone is worth the price of admissiion. ($4 adults, $3 seniors.) A shell collection and identification guide, a glass gallery, history of petroleum, and the usual things you expect in a  museum. But, the exhibits on legendary people who hail from the gulf eclipsed everything else, mainly because there are so many of them. Robert Rauschenberg, artist, Cricchio, famous photograher.  There are writers, designers, actors, actresses, dancers, directors, football players, coaches an Olympian, but their music legends are far and away a phenomenal group. I counted 67 musicians or groups and don’t know if I got them all. Jimmy Clanton, Lonnie Brooks, Joe Barry, Clifton Chenier, ZZTop, Lee Hazlewood, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Barbara Lynn, Ivory Joe Hunter, BB King, Wayne Toups, Clay Walker, Jerry LaCroix. I’m not going to name them all, but the most famous was Janis Joplin, and J.P. Richardson known best as the Big Bee Bopper.

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This is the way I remember Janis Joplin from this photo. Her untimely, drug and alcohol induced death didn’t sit well with the locals and for awhile they didn’t want to be identified with her.

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The Joplins were a church going family and I’m making a judgement here when I look at this picture of a very proper and pious looking mom and dad, a wholesome sister and brother, then Janis, physically pulling away from the rest. The wild one.

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A replica of her hippy car. And, you may remember the words to that famous song of hers: “Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz? My friends all driver Porsches, I must make Amends…”

Richardson and Buddy Holley killed in the same accident.

The Big Bee Bopper, died with Buddy Holly in a plane accident. They were such originals. Tragic deaths of such talented people.

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Another tragic figure from Nederland, which borders Port Arthur, is Karen Silkwood.  She worked to expose Kerr-McGee’s falsified records of plant safety where she worked. It cost her her life. At least two books and a movie have been made about her life and her fight  of corporate abuse.

Tony Joe White

Other notables:   Tony Joe White.

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Johnny Winter.

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I saw Brown in Concert in Angels Camp in the 1980′s  and got his autograph on one of his albums.

 

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The musical legends just call to you. They have places around the museum where you can hear their music and many cds in the gift store. This is a don’t miss museum  for this marvelous great musical legends section.

SHANGAI II

August 13, 2012

Shangai is an impressive city for its ultra-modern skyscrapers, shopping, culture,  night life. You can easily think you are in a Western city with a grand Chinatown.  With  camera/disk problems I have  few pictures to show you. The night scene photo above has no attribution but it came from a tourism website. Our first night in Shangai, after our daytime city tour, we have dinner at the gorgeous Hilton Hotel and ate bland food. It was decent, but by comparison with the rest of China, we decided it was our worst meal so far.  On balance, we had our first real alcoholic drink. Good scotch.

It has been a long day but that night,  we are taken to visit the tallest building in the world with 88 floors. (Since eclipsed by the 105 story Japanese building with-in sight of it.) We don’t go up an elevator, we ascend, seamlessly, all 88 floors in 45 seconds,  with no sensation of being on an elevator whatever. An endless line of tourists paid $7 for the ride. It goes without saying the views are spectacular. It is a Saturday, and the waterfront is alight with skyscrapers projecting ads 20 stories tall on the sides of their buildings. We see a video of men who illegally parachuted from the building. We drink it in, reluctant to leave. The waterfront buildings are alight on Saturdays and Sundays. During the week, the lights are turned off as a cost saving measure. Smart!

The next morning, we visit the Children’s Palace, very aptly named since Mau took over  mansions from the decadent rich ministers and government employees and devoted them to boarding schools for gifted students. The education is free and only those identified by their teachers with special talent may attend. Children  move to cities all over China where other “palaces” are located. Some concentrate on art, or music, science, dance, sports, martial arts, gymnastics, etc.  We were impressed with the pictures these young kids drew and painted.  The walls going into the school are  filled with exceptional artwork.

Another room held  a music class with students age four to sixteen learning the violin. First they tap out the music, then hum the notes, then  strum the notes. The teacher strikes her stick loudly when a mistake is made and scolds. We cannot understand her words, but we understand her tone.

Next we watch as  five girls play for us on a zither-like ancient instrument, similar to a harp in sound. It may be admirable to help children achieve  their special potential, but we found the fierce discipline offensive. Not a smile  from any student and we can’t help but wonder where goes their childhood? Talented and unhappy is not  a good goal. The parents are honored that their child is chosen and wouldn’t think of turning down this opportunity.

After lunch, we visit a silk factory. Employees stand. Again, we see poor working conditions. The cocoons are drowned and the larvae removed. The fine fibers are twisted into a fine yarn size, then dyed in special batches of color to be woven into shirts, scarves, ties and rugs.  Hard work. Bats of coarser silk, are used to make comforters with a reputation for being very warm compared to their light weight.

The process of making a comforter was fascinating. Each bat of silk is stretched and stretched and fit on a form like a fitted sheet fits a mattress. After several bats are stretched, it becomes a comforter and is fitted into a case for size, queen, king or double. I bought two, at $10 each. Of course, a fancy cover to make them beautiful, costs twice as much. One woman from our group opted to make her own cover. A machine squeezes them so tightly, they fit into a small purse sized case with a handle.  Cool!

After dinner we attend a show that is the highpoint of Shanghai and all tickets have been sold out for months. Chinese acrobats are famous for their extraordinary muscle control and balance as they do difficult feats in slow motion. A girl balances a tray of glasses in her mouth while doing carefully modulated trapeze acts. Another balances on one hand while doing contortions with her body, forming a butterfly, frog, cricket, then she jumps to the opposite hand and becomes her own twin. Breathtaking twists, falls, jumps from unbelievable positions. High jumping, hoops, tumbling comic acts…we hold our breath and gaze entranced at such talent.  On the way back to our hotel, we catch our last look at the fabulous lighted Yangtze River boats and skyscrapers and know we are looking at a burgeoning new capitalistic economy that is rocketing skyward to awe the world.

 

 

 

 

BUDDING CHAMPIONS

April 10, 2012

I watched a documentary about Kevin Klash,  who dreamed of becoming a puppeteer on Sesame Street when he was a young child. Klash is an endearing subject, who followed his dream and grew up to become a now famous puppeteer. How is it that some children seem to know exactly what they want to be when they grow up?  When a teacher would ask my classmates what each one wanted to be when  he/she grew up, most of them didn’t have a clue. I just wanted to be myself. My grandson Theo is certain he wants to work for Lego and become a designer.  My experience tells me he will have changed his mind several times about his  chosen occupation before he grows up. But, in the meantime, he is very serious and he owns, with a brother, a mountainous collection of legos. (Hidden under his bed.)

Click on the link to hear the budding engineer describe his passion:

http://youtu.be/EXjF0lxHqBY

His brother, Owen, has been chosen from among his peers to be a demonstrator for karate.  They encourage others to try their craft and only those who are very proficient are chosen to go on demo gigs. He is practicing  one particular move, and showed me that move:

http://youtu.be/DJjj8ODk17k

One of the great joys of being a grandma, is not carrying pictures around, but uploading their feats to youtube and sharing on a blog.  I still have people ask me, what’s a blog?  It is a web-log.  Thus blog.

 

 

WESTERN CULTURE

February 17, 2012

Jim spent another day, well, six hours working on the new device, getting it to talk to our router. Oboy!  When electronics get mad at you they stay mad for hours.

Sandee and I spent time on her computer with me showing her how to organize pictures. She had some other pesty problems with it her new laptop,  and Jim, my resident expert, fixed them for her. When he helps me with MY computer he always sings a little song and does a dance. “Its so nice to have an engineer around the house…”   So, I told him he had to dance for Sandee.

Sandee had therapy early in the day and her meds were delivered to her door mid morning.  She had polio as a child and has difficulties related to  post polio syndrome that comes back to haunt you when you are older.  She must have infusions. A nurse comes to the house and administers them to fight the affects of myasthenia gravis.  Life ain’t easy, but it’s a gift.

I mentioned how multi-talented she is. I  took a photo of this neat little ceramic device she made for her desk, to hide the mass of black cords that now, no longer show against a white wall.

Another ceramic piece she did is the back of this indian’s head.

When she moved to Arizona, she really got into Western art and I’d roughly estimate she has 1,000 artifacts and art pieces visible in her house and yard.

A leather wrapped Indian spear frames numerous pieces with a western hat collection above it.

We will move on to a Moose Club south of Tuscon. In fact, it was 34 degrees and snowing in Tuscon last night. I guess Jim won’t be dancing and singing if we run into it on the road this morning.

We are moving just around the bend to visit some fascinating places.

FALLEN ROBOT

August 5, 2011

Guys like my robot. Their mechanical curiosity immediately pops up at first site of it, and they check out his movable arms and legs, and head; his spark plug toes; radio tube eyes. They act like teenagers looking under the hood of their first car. (It helps to know he is made of car parts.)  One piece comes from a 1947 Plymouth, the artist told me.

Rust has caught up with my robot and I tried to move him inside, out of the weather until I could attend to the problem. Unfortunately, the weld on his foot gave way and down he came, his head came undone and rolled to the side. Oh, no!  Some rusty looking oil spilled out of his “crank case” and there he lay. Now, where is one of those handy car guys when you need him?  No putting off the job. I got out the steel wool and sandpaper, bought some aluminum paint and went to work. Not a job I wanted to do just now, but the robot needs this  fix.

Several hours yesterday morning, I managed to get two legs finished on one side only. Hmm! This is going to be a long process I can see. I’m enthused. He looks much better. Now, to find a handy welder kind of guy to put him back together before I leave.

I spent the afternoon with an old quilting buddy, Kendra North.  We didn’t quilt, we talked about the quilts we haven’t finished yet, our high school reunion experiences and had lunch instead. I am so fortunate to have so many talented friends.  Kendra, a cancer survivor,  can saddle a horse, shoe a donkey, weed eat her acreage, stave off the coyotes with her rifle, tutor her grandchildren, build a chicken coop, make gorgeous quilts, and keep her ancient Volkswagen running.  She doesn’t weld.

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