October 17, 2004

Getting around

True, it's been a slow week here on EGAD. I'll try to keep that sort of thing to a minimum in the future. Suffice to say that a number of projects are competing for my time, some of which may get chronicled here, whereas others are entirely unrelated; a few might even relate to my job.

As such, I've been something of a slacker about the photography recently. But as a stopgap, I still have a pile of older photos that can surely be massaged into a semi-coherent ramble of some sort.

According to the local weather reports the first snows may have fallen over the weekend, at least in the very technical sense of there being snowflakes in the air. Looks like it's gone back to wet and chilly since then, which is pretty much how it was when I left, too.

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My last snapshot of Minnesota. 2004:10:01 14:28:00

Chicago will take a little longer to chill out, with the substantial heat capacity of Lake Michigan right next door, but I hear it's already dipping below freezing some mornings. However, it was sunny and reasonably warm when I was there, transferring from Delta to Iberia at O'Hare. I managed to snap a picture of the plane at the terminal, although for some reason people seem to think it's odd to be taking pictures in an airport, unless there's some sort of soccer mom involved.

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The enormous Maria Guerrero, an Airbus-340. 2004:10:01 16:04:06

I haven't decided if I should invent some symbolism for the fact that my Airbus was named the Maria Guerrero, which in addition to translating (with incorrect gender ageement) as Mary the Warrior, is the name of one of my aunts. I don't recall ever seeing names on the planes operated by American carriers, but I do know there are named craft in the United States' aeronautical tradition. And I am fully prepared to believe that a passenger jet can have as much personality as a boat.

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Interior of a (line 8?) Madrid subway train, clearly before the morning rush. The cars are connected by flexible joints, like some city buses in the States, giving the feel of an extremely long, mobile corridor. 2004:10:02 23:13:08

I likewise quite readily suspect that the US carriers feel that it would be somehow silly to go around slapping names on the sides of their planes, especially considering that the things get sold, repurposed, and whatnot on a regular basis, so they're constantly being repainted. But then again, given how airport terminals are generally constructed, I suppose it's possible that I've seen the noses of so few planes that I've just never noticed the practice.

A transatlantic flight at night is a relatively boring affair, once you get out over the ocean. I flew over some bits of Canada en route that I don't normally get to see, but since only so much of it is really inhabited, it also holds rather limited interest on a nocturnal flight. I was able to make out Prince Edward Island, I think, but other landmarks were only discernable through the assistance of a progress map that occasionally flashed up on the television monitors. On the whole, this isn't a terrible thing, considering that so far as the circadian system is concerned, the flight is like living a night in fast-forward. Sleeping when one can is a good idea, since once dinner is done you've perhaps four or five hours to do it in, while the body still believes it's 9 pm.

The entire north Atlantic was covered by a high fog of some sort, and if I'd had a steady place to mount my camera for a long exposure I'd have tried to capture the effect. Rather than the ten kilometers or so the monitors claimed our altitude to be, we appeared to be hovering above a fuzzy, luminous surface perhaps a couple of kilometers down -- although distance is hard to judge with something as scale-free as fog. Nevertheless, the monitors reported our altitude as 9, 10, 11 kilometers; oddly enough, we appear to have been climbing for the entire flight. Unless there's some effect associated with nighttime or the north Atlantic that artificially inflates altimeter readings, of course -- but I don't think the atmosphere contracts by 15% at night.

Madrid is not an American city, by the way, in rather the same way that the Alhambra is not the Sears Tower.

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A small plaza in central Madrid, a few blocks south-east of El Palacio Real. Much of the central city looks approximately like this. 2004:10:02 09:15:48

Each was, in its respective heyday, a center of cultural and economic activity in its region, and besides that, a building. But the aesthetics, function, philosophy, and ages differ tremendously. I've probably got one more post worth of Madrid photos to put together, so we'll delve into that some more.

Posted by Milligan at 09:08 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 08, 2004

Las Aguas del Buen Retiro

El Parque del Buen Retiro, a royal retreat in the 1600s, is now somewhat analogous to Central Park. Except, of course, that it is much older, a bit smaller, and contains bits of an old palace.

Since my jaunt through the park occurred before check-in time at my hostel, I was dragging a fairly heavy suitcase around with me, and my exploration was a bit incomplete. But I'd heard about its interesting fountains, so off I jaunted.

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Fountain nearest the park entrance, just north of Estanque del Retiro. 2004:10:02 04:17:17

Getting to the park was actually quite easy, as it has its own Metro stop just a couple of stations from my hostel. One encounteres this fountain pretty shortly after wandering into the park, and as such it seemed like a good place to stop and rest my shoulders, while reflecting on the fact that my circadian physiology was trying to claim that it was three in the morning.

My suspicion is that the texturing on the sides of this fountain is meant to evoke stalactites, indicating an aquatic grotto setting, perhaps. I did not establish what Tigger was doing there, or why he was towing a stuffed toy tiger around on a skateboard behind him.

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Monument to King Alfonso XII overlooking the artificial lake, El Estanque del Retiro. The first rowboaters are just coming out. 2004:10:02 04:39:19
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Puppet stage beside the lake. One of several, although the only one performing at the time. 2004:10:02 04:44:41

Interestingly, given the park's history, the statue of Rey Alphonso XII overlooking the artificial lake is the only royal monument that I ran across, and it is an extremely recent addition. But, given that most of the palace compound was evidently destroyed during the Napoleonic Wars, earlier regal commemorations may simply no longer be present. The lake itself is quite pleasant, especially on an autumn weekend such as this day; Madrileno families are out in force, feeding the ducks and fish, watching puppet shows, picnicing, and taking rowboats out for a spin.

I got very few odd looks struting doggedly around with my luggage in tow. I can only assume that, this being around the height of backpacker season (it seems to be a long season), kids wandering around with lots of gear and no apparent destination are a common sight.

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Fountain nearest the Museo del Ejército, on the southern end of El Estanque del Retiro 2004:10:02 04:51:05
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A closeup on the characters and crest at the base of the fountain near the Museo del Ejército 2004:10:02 04:51:33

The far end of the lake is bracketed by another fountain on an aquatic theme, this time striking a more obviously royal note. Notice the two classical figures, the male pretty clearly Poseiden/Neptune, holding a shield between them. I wasn't able to immediately identify the crest represented, but I made a close-up in case anyone has some ideas in that direction. Since the entire park was, at its inception, royal grounds, it isn't clear to me why some installations would express this powerful regality, while others are more playful. Simple variety suggests itself as an explanation, but I am inclined to hold out for a deeper aesthetic justification -- although I should note that I don't know the installation dates for these fountains, and thus whether they belong to the royal period or the later era as a public park.

In any case the next, and by far most unique, fountain lay ahead, shedding no light upon my question.

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El Angel Caído, the first and possibly only statue of Lucifer in Europe. 2004:10:02 05:16:25
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Close-up of the Fallen One

The 1878 sculpture won international artistic acclaim when it was crafted, but I haven't been able to discover what reaction the people of this staunchly Catholic city might have had to this monument. Aesthetically, however, the piece strikes me as a success, with the power and pathos of the lifelike sculpture at the top both removed from and imprisoned against humanity in a distinctly Promethean pose, atop a pedastal that is remarkably forbidding for a popular park. The severe angles of the thing reflect a somewhat Tolkienesque sense for the personality of form, while the dragon-wolf gargoyle figures likewise suggest both protection from the evil above, and malice in their own right.

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Close-up of the gargoyle figures at the base of El Angel Caído's pedastal
Posted by Milligan at 11:06 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 03, 2004

Status

For those of you playing along at home, it is 4:30 am local time, and in an hour and a half I will be off to take the Madrid subway (the Metro) back to the airport. Had a lovely day here, but thanks to the jetlag I had to grab a nap in the afternoon, and haven´t slept tonight. Which is okay by me.

Later there will be pictures of Madrid architecture and the Buen Retiro, including the oldest known public monument dedicated to the Dark Lord. Sorry art buffs, but the Prado didn´t make the cut.

Signing off.

Posted by Milligan at 04:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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