Thursday, October 28, 2010

Home Art Show - the Inauguration

We had our inaugural home art show this past Sunday. Called "Light, Paint & Ink," it featured my photography, Tina's oils and watercolors and Ellen Shipley's monotypes and wood prints. It turned out pretty well. The weather cooperated and we had a nice day. The rain held off until we were all finished and everything was put away.

This is the view down our driveway as we were nearly ready to start. As you can see I had a lot of rather large aircraft prints and one giclee. Our friend, Tom Hacker, is in the background helping us set up.

Tina had some rather large paintings as well. This is the view further down the driveway opposite the tent above.

This is the view from the tent. As it turned out I was asked to take detailed photos of a sculpture. Since it is a limited series, we decided to display it in case anyone was interested in purchasing a piece as the artist is a good friend.

The figure is a highly detailed rendering of an Imperial Japanese Navy pilot from World War II. Sculpted by Don Lynch, now living in Canada, it was commissioned by another friend, Gary Nila, who is an avid collector of Japanese World War II uniforms and accouterments. Gary has done a couple of monographs on the subject, which I had the honor of doing the contemporary photography. More on that in a later post.
We also had a table set up to display the Invenature Cookbook, of which Tina and I contributed, and flyers for Kindle books by another good friend, Mel Gilden.

The idea behind the show, besides trying to sell our art, was to provide a dry run for a potential art-in-the-park venture. The Pro-Panel walls were newly purchased by Tina for that future endeavor and this was the learning phase on how to set them up. The art looked quite good on the walls. Aida King and Mel Gilden are looking at art.

Another view of the panels, this time with my photography hung on the panels. Karen Hilb is checking out the layout. Karen was our cashier and was a tremendous help.

Another view. Mel is skillfully avoiding my camera. Tina is in the background.

We were blessed to have plenty of help. Gary Charpentier is to the right of Mel's shoulder. Tom is checking out the loose art bin. Some of my black and white photos are on the left wall.

Ellen took a different route. She already had a sun shade, so she and her husband Bill decided to fabricate her walls. It turned out pretty well. This view shows some of her Paleo-Mythos prints. They are quite good.

Some more views of her set up. As you can see we had lots of chairs set out so people could come and relax and chat.

More views of our panels. We were quite pleased with how the worked out.

We set up the snacks in the Secret Garden. A funky red and white checkerboard tablecloth was used and the drinks were chilled in the ice chest. We also had some wine. Ellen, Laurie Perry, Tina and Karen provided cookies, cheeseballs and crackers, fruit and especially pumpkin bars (thanks Laurie!). We also had sandwiches, which made the rounds.

The back edge of the yard was lined with chairs. It was a very pleasant setting and people enjoyed being able to lounge about.

Steph Grush manned the snacks area and did a fabulous job!

Craig Kaston (right) and Chris Eisner share a conversation. Chris' husband, Steve, is behind Craig. Knowing them, they were discussing airplanes in general and the F-4 Phantom II in particular.

Lynn and Maryanne Jenson peruse the loose art bin. I had my smaller airplane photos in a couple of tubs on the other side.

Ellen holding down the fort at her tent while folks relax in the chairs. We were quite pleased to have Tina's dad, Bill, show up for the event. My cousin Bob Chang chats with Steph.

Fortunately, we did sell some art. Tom was particularly generous. He's getting his purchase from Karen and Roy King looks on.

More views of the art on our walls. As we started to sell pieces Tina went into a seller's frenzy and started filling empty spots with more of our art, some of which were hanging on our own walls! If somebody wanted to by one she was game. We could always replace the pieces with more of our art. But it was pretty funny anyway.

The sky grew overcast the later in the afternoon it became. Karen is now wearing her jacket. The rain started shortly after we closed down. It was a case of great timing. I don't know who Tina had to bribe to get the good weather for the show, but we lucked out.

Through it all our male cat Nicky (short for Nikolai) guarded the back door. He was a very good cat and did not try to go outdoors. I think he like being the king of Bubblewrap. He seemed to enjoy being snuggled up in it.

All in all, we all did well. We all sold some art, and two cookbooks as well! We're looking forward to doing our first art-in-the-park sometime in the Spring, as well as doing another backyard show around this time next year. We had a great time! Hope you all can join us then.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sky Shadows

I try to pick my window seats by how I think the sun angle will light the clouds and ground features. Sometimes I guess wrong and it still works out.

The starboard (right) side is usually a good place on a West-bound
flight. It works really well on the Denver-Las Vegas route. However, I forgot we were going Denver to Phoenix on this trip. That meant a more Southwesterly direction, with the nose a little to the left of the sun's position in the sky.

When that happens the features usually get washed out by the harsh light. Fortunately this time there was a lot of cloud activity. Big, billowy clouds get a dramatic look when heavily backlit, especially towards the golden hour of the la
te-afternoon. I really like the shadows cast by the clouds.

These two shots, taken moments apart, give a hint of the ever-changing vista just outside the aircraft. I love it - it's the only thing worthwhile (aside from the faster travel time) about flying these days. If I didn't have a view I would go crazy wondering what I had missed.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Evie Swings and Bubbles

Evie seems to have adjusted really well to the arrival of her baby brother. It also helps to have two grandparents around to entertain you while Daddy is at work and Mommy is going to the doctor with Eoin. There is nothing like undivided attention to perk up a four-year old.

So on that particular day we picked Evie up from pre-school and took her to the park. The swing was about the first thing she went to. Note that she is still using the smaller child safety swing with the bucket seat. There was another set with the regular style seats, but she did not want to use them as she was afraid of falling out if pushed too high. A reasonable fear, to me. I think she inherited her excess caution from her grampa. I was not known as a dare-devil then or now.

Nevertheless, once safely ensconced in the bucket, she wanted to go really high. With Nana T pushing from behind and Grampa Tony pushing from the front she attained a good deal of height - and loved it!

And in case you hadn't noticed, she picked out on her own and wore to school that day her Dodger t-shirt that we got her on their visit to L.A. this past June. All is right with the universe, even if they did have a suckee season and the Giants (shudder) finished first. Oh, well....

The park adventure concluded with a bit of bubble blowing with her new toy that we bought her on our trip to the Central Coast over Labor Day. We wanted to bring her a gift so she wouldn't feel left out with everyone cooing over Eoin, so we got at battery-powered, trigger-activated fan-blown bubble blower. Say that fast five times. Despite the unwieldy description it worked great and made a prodigious amount of bubbles. Even the homeless woman under an adjacent tree was impressed.

Needless to say Evie loved it. And we loved it because it wasn't as messy as hand-blown bubbles! We were using a rental van, after all. :-)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Meeting Eoin

Well, that was another extended break that went on longer than intended. Several events conspired to occupy my time. One of them was the 8 day visit to Colorado Springs to greet the new grandson, Eoin Michael Cotter. As you can see, he and I got along famously.
Even Nana T got into the act, although once again she did her famous party trick by managing to evade every diaper change opportunity. Grampa, on the other hand, had lots of practice learning to change baby boys - something that I've had very, very little experience at in life. I consider myself experienced now.

Evie continues to enjoy her new baby brother. Just wait until he gets into her stuff; then we'll see how happy she is.

Actually, I much prefer this state of contentment. Siblings have enough problems living with each other. Getting started on the right foot is very important. So far so good.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lightning Strikes Twice

I had the chance to go to the F-35A media event at Edwards AFB on August 27th. They took us out to the intersection of taxiway Bravo and the main runway and we watched AF-01 land after a test flight. Once the plane landed we climbed into the Air Force bus and they took us to hangar 1820 for the official briefing and interviews.

Media events are always interesting. They are, of course, designed to put the best foot forward for that particular program, but hopefully what you hear is said with good justification. Some are more successful at it than others.

I won't comment on my thoughts on that aspect (we are teammates on the program, after all, and subject to bias), but I will make an observation on how things are presented to the media. The Air Force did a great job for the most part. There were glitches, but flight test is used to that and so are flight test PR events. Regardless, the media had great access and good quotes and soundbites.

Lockheed Martin does an outstanding job with media events. Having gone head-to-head against them and being on the same team with them on different occasions, it is still an amazing thing to watch. Nobody else in aerospace - and I mean nobody else - does PR as well as those guys! I've seen them blow away Boeing and us many times. In that regard, my hat is off to them.

This event was no different, even though it was the Air Force's gig. Lockheed Martin provided top-notch images and background information to the media with DVDs and thumbdrives so deadlines could be quickly met. From the media side it is always fun going to one of their events.

And the plane was fun to shoot, too. I just wish the sun had been to our backs, but it was so high up in the sky it was probably a moot issue. Nevertheless I think I got some neat images. I even got artsy! That one I submitted to the 2010 Aviation Week photo contest. I will post that shot at a later date.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Eoin Meets the Family

Christie sent out a bunch of photos on Snapfish, from which I shamelessly downloaded some of my favorites to show and share. I assume Mike was the photographer on most of them, with Christie taking a hand in the last one here. I have no idea who shot the group photo...maybe Mike's mom Jeanne.

Regardless, here are "official" photos of Eoin meeting his immediate family for the first time. Evie, as I mentioned before, declared herself satisfied with her baby brother. She certainly does look pleased in these several shots.

I'd say the whole family looks pretty pleased here. We are, too!

"Welcome home, baby Eoin!"
Some have commented on Eoin's features and how well-formed his face looks. I agree, he does look handsome. As I also mentioned before, his hair and skin tone is lighter than Evie's, so I think his Celtic side is going to be prominent in him. I wonder how much red he'll have in his hair when he is grown?

It's never too early to start reading to your kids! Good on you, daddy!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Farewells & Welcomes - The Circle of Life

Photo by Mike Cotter
Photo by Wayne Pittman

This has been a roller-coaster of a week. On 30 August Tina's mom, Jean, passed away after a long, debilitating illness. It was a pretty stressful last few years for all involved.

And yet, a few short days later, we welcomed to the world our new grandson, Eoin Michael Cotter, born today, 8 September 2010, in Colorado Springs, CO.

The cliche' about the "Circle of Life" was indeed at work here. From sorrow and relief to joy and wonder. The end of one life and the beginning of another. And so it goes, generation upon generation. It's pretty amazing sometimes.

For those who care, Eoin weighed in at 7 lbs, 12 oz and was 20 inches long. He has big feet, lots of hair (although not as much as his sister when she was born) and a lighter complexion than Evie. The Celtic genes won out this round.

Eoin is pronounced "Oh-in." A fascinating look at the origin of the name is found at this site:

Eoin's cousins Josh and Nicole Pittman delivered Pooh and Eeyore to his bassinet.

Evie visited today and declared that she was happy with her new baby brother. Christie and Mike are breathing easier at the news. :-)

That's it for tonight; I'm pooped. More later.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"Lady Be Good"

It is the nature of war that the cessation of hostilities seldom means resolution for many of the participants or their survivors. What we now call "post-traumatic stress disorder" dogs many veterans of every war long after the shooting stops, and those MIA - "Missing In Action" - haunt their families as long as a memory remains to remember those lost.

"Closure" is a peculiar trait in the human species. Burial rituals exist to provide closure to survivors, reassuring them that their loved ones are really dead and have gone on to a better place. In the absence of tangible remains, uncertainty and hope battle in its place; gnawing uncertainty that the missing will ever be found alive and undying hope that they will indeed be found alive.

Occasionally that hope, against all odds and rational sense, prevails. Thirty, forty and even fifty years after the end of World War II, a ragged Japanese soldier would emerge out of the jungle like a living wraith to remind the world that fervently wished for miracles do occur.

But that result is so very rare. Typically any resolution is a confirmation of the worst fears a family can have.

The "Lady Be Good" was one such example. An American B-24D Liberator heavy bomber flying with the 514th Bomb Squadron, 576th Bomb Group - known as the "Liberandos" - the Lady flew from her base in Libya on 4 April 1943 to bomb targets in Naples, Italy. She never returned. Assumed lost in the Mediterranean Sea, the crew was classified as MIA and the families left to wonder and hope against all hope.

In 1958 the Lady was spotted from an airborne petroleum company survey aircraft nearly intact and 440 miles inland in the Libyan desert. When a recovery crew from Wheelus Air Force Base, then an American installation on the coast of Libya, reached the wreckage they found that the radio still worked, food and water were on board and drinkable tea was found in a thermos. But there was no sign of the crew.

A search was later initiated and eventually the remains of five of the crew were found in 1960 eighty miles north of the wreck site. Additional searches recovered two more crew remains, also in 1960, one 20 miles and another 27 miles further north. An eighth crew member was never formally found or identified, although it's possible his remains could have discovered in 1953 by a British patrol and buried in the desert. The ninth and last crewman was never accounted for.

The resulting investigation concluded the plane's Automatic Direction Finder broke during the mission. The crew asked for a heading back to base, missed the flares and other attempts to guide planes back home and overshot the coast by over 400 miles. The crew, seeing the sand dunes at night, thought they were still over the Med and bailed out. The Lady flew on for another 16 miles by herself and landed in the desert.

Eight of the nine crew members were able to regroup and, thinking they were near the coast, decided to walk out. They shared a single canteen of water for eight days, making a trek of eighty miles in 100 degree-plus heat, before five could not continue. Three pressed on, the last dying alone 27 miles beyond his comrades.

The last days of the crew of Lady Be Good were recounted in the journal of the co-pilot. The tragic end suffered by the men could not have brought comfort to the families, but it did bring closure.

For those of us of a certain age - or those who study the history of World War II aviation, the saga of Lady Be Good is well known and of near-mythological status. It is no surprise that someone would take up the challenge of capturing that incident in a diorama.

This presentation was extremely well done. I have seen several photos of the crash site and this is a remarkable accurate representation of the remains.

This is not the first diorama of the Lady Be Good, nor will it likely be the last. And rightly so. As long as someone remembers their sacrifice, the crew of the Lady will live on in the memories of a new generation. War has severe consequences and should not be undertaken lightly. It is the lesson we must continually learn, it seems, but it is the least we can do for those who serve and die, and the families who are left behind with uncertainty and impossible hope.