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The Union League and Johnny Depp:

"Enter Dutch artisan Frans Bulder, whose credits include work for the Union League and actor Johnny Depp."

Maybe I should get him to do a faux finish somewhere in my house!

(EDITED TO ADD: I came in to the League House this afternoon to give a tour, which wound up taking an hour and a half because the visitors were very engaged with the building, its history, and its collections. Now I've become rooted to my seat in the business center, unwilling to get up on my feet again. Time to head home, though...)
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2010-01-26_10unionleagueIn a lull between blooming plants. The last couple Christmas cactus blooms need to be pinched off, although there are a few late bloomers down in the second floor bathroom. No hippeastrum are showing any buds yet, although I suspect the thing poking up from the 'Exotica' may be a bud. There are some swellings on some of the leaves of the Nopalxochia phyllanthoides but I don't have my hopes up too far yet.

It was very cold (for Philadelphia) today. The thermometer never made it over 20F in our backyard.

The photo above is of something that made me do a double-take last week: fake wisteria scapes in a planter at the back door of the Union League. Very declassé, what *were* they thinking??? Also, the shrub is a fake. I shall have to write to the house committee and complain.
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Originally uploaded by lb_philly.
This happens to be the Joseph A. Ferko String Band, which took second place this year. Quaker City took third.

We hung out at the Union League for its open house, eating oyster stew and big slabs of roast beef and drinking Fish House Punch, the official drink of The State in Schuylkill, America's oldest eating club. (Coincidentally, they have the archival storage locker next to my library association down in the basement of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.) That Fish House Punch stuff packs a mean wallop.

This is always a great beginning to the new year. I could wish, again, that I had a better camera. But other fine photographers with Nikon D-90s have been posting their photos on Flickr so I can enjoy the fruits of *their* labors.
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We've started a new program for the Union League docent corps -- the docents' lunch series. The idea is that we'll meet once a month, or once every other month, and one or two of us will research some work of art or other figure and present our findings. For the inaugural lunch, we're concentrating on the portraits placed in our sumptuously remodeled dining rooms. I have four to do and one is George Henry Boker, 1823-1890, poet and playwright and polemicist and one of the prime movers behind the Union League.

To prepare for this, I'm reading Sculley Bradley's 1928 biograpahy of Boker, which is a pure delight in itself. Bradley is a contemporary of Christopher Morley, whose Travels in Philadelphia, with their gentle and affectionate descriptions of city life, have always been a favorite of mine. Bradley's book opens with a description of what Philadelphia had been like in the year of Boker's birth -- pointing out that Boker would have been surrounded by older folks who were part of the Revolution, and linking him in memory to the country's founding.

I'm looking forward to savoring this biography for its language as well as its content, and have ordered a copy for my very own so that I can dip into it again after returning this copy to the Union League Library.

The fact that Boker translated Beowulf before going off to Princeton impressed me mightily. The fact that he remained close to his boyhood friends for all his life is also telling. And the fact that he has written some no doubt unintentionally hilarious faux Shakespeare in Anne Boleyn is pure gold.

By the turn of the 20th century, Boker's reputation as a poet and a playwright had ebbed, despite Sculley Bradley's heroic attempts to resusciate it. I am finding his life at least wonderfully complex.
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Originally uploaded by lb_philly.
After a buffet dinner of kid food (hoagies, mini cheeseburgers, fried chicken, roasted potatoes or fries, etc.) plus a healthy salad alternative, we boarded our two DUKWs and headed out for the Delaware. It was getting late and spitting rain, so the route was changed and we went right into the Delaware first. For some reason I don't fully understand, our Duck went in first and then hung around until the second Duck came in. (Their captain wasn't waiting for them at the ramp so they had to wait. Our captain was on board.) So we got two runs around the part of the river where the Ducks go...about 3/4 mile south of our entry ramp. I think we were in water for close to an hour.

Not great photographic conditions for a point and shoot so my photos have an impressionistic quality, like a lot of Pissarro cityscapes. You can click through and see the other 11, if you're interested. We enjoyed ourselves tremendously.
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Let's see...

Teh intarwebs are slower than molasses in a cold snap today, so replying to email is taking half of forever.

I've just had a "first" and hope it never happens again: I lost my grip on my coffee mug and poured 6 oz of black coffee into my keyboard. I am so glad I drink it black because after I turned the keyboard upside down and left it to drain on a dishtowel for a bit, it seems to be fine, although the action isn't quite as crisp as it used to be and a couple keys are threatening to stick a bit. Perhaps when it is completely dry. I hypothesize that the coffee has caused damp little mats of dust and cat hair that will break up after the keyboard dries out.

The hive mind of LJ has delivered unto me the name of a SF novel I read almost 40 years ago and couldn't for the life of me remember: Macroscope, by Piers Anthony. I have no idea what happened to my copy so I've just ordered up another one. It's a keeper. While I wait for it, there are the poems of Sidney Lanier, especially The Marshes of Glynn, that figure so prominently in that book. I am normally a prosaic soul, shying away from poetry, but the meter and the sonorities of Lanier speak to me.

Yesterday [ profile] karenkay rode the only elephant in Michigan. Tonight Roy and I are riding The Ducks with a gaggle of Union Leaguers. Pictures will be posted.
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The count is now 20. They range from one or two shoots that are almost one inch high to some barely perceptible green nubbins. But if all those guys survive I'll have enough for a good range of gene-remixing. The photo, below, is about actual size on my 1024 x 768 monitor.


In other news, I spent a pleasant few hours yesterday touring our City Hall in the company of my fellow Union League docents. Afterwards we met at the League for wine, and after that Roy and I pigged out on the prime rib buffet. We think we may live on bread and water (or chicken breast and broccoli) today for penance.
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Originally uploaded by lb_philly.
I wanted to take some pictures of the Union League Lincoln Bicentennial open house, but I couldn't!

We had almost 1,600 people come for tours in one four hour period. I barely had time to take a sip of water between groups, giving my spiel at the Sully portrait and the grand staircase. We usually do tour groups of 10-15 people, but on this day we had to take 40 people or more to accommodate the crowds. With no mikes, the tour guides and stationed docents were pretty much hoarse. We pressed all kinds of folks into service to serve as tour assistants, keeping this mass of humanity moving.

But it was a pretty wonderful day. We docents are still higher than kites on the positive energy from the public -- or maybe from the drinks we all had in the Old Cafe after our visitors had left. Roy joined the frolic as a tour-herder, and we agreed this is one of the nicest Valentine's Days we ever had.
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Originally uploaded by lb_philly.
It was a wonderful day.

At the Lincoln Day luncheon at the Union League, Lincoln scholar Allen Guelzo made some pointed remarks about Lincoln's attitude toward entitlements, based on excerpts from his own writings and speeches.

Then we formed up for a parade from the League House to Independence Hall, where a young student read the text of Lincoln's speech, delivered there on February 22, 1861 prior to the raising of the American flag. A flag was raised by members of the U. S. Colored Troop 3rd Infantry Regiment (reenactors), and a fragment of the actual flag raised on that day in 1861 was displayed.

My colleague Beth De George from the Union League Library was working on a Flat Stanley project for her grandson, so I enabled that.

Here's a word cloud of Lincoln's speech:
Wordle: Lincoln in Philadelphia
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1. Do not go to the Asian supermarket the day before Lunar New Year unless you're more interested in teh spectacle than the shopping.

2. Do a real swatch before starting a major project, or risk winding up with Too Much Yarn. Srsly. The Ben.Ben.Blankie is almost half done and I've only used one quarter of the yarn I bought.

3. Something potentially life-changing has happened. The Union League has stopped charging members an additional fee for the use of its fitness center. This means that effectively Roy and I just got two free gym memberships. How cool is that?
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Originally uploaded by lb_philly.
We had the best Mummer's Day imaginable, even though it was bitterly cold.

We walked up Broad Street from Christian to Sansom, experiencing two very different parades. At Broad & Christian, the comic brigades (drunken pipefitters in drag) had just started their march. There were very few crowds there. Grand daughter was totally entranced, stood there like a toddler at the sight of its first Christmas tree. I think it was all the testosterone in the air.

Later we went to the Open House at the Union League, which included reserved bleachers just in front of the League House. The League writes the Mummers Association a check with many zeroes, as it has for years, and they perform for us. They were especially grateful this year as the Mayor has cut the city budget and there will be no funding for the Mummers in 2010, so folks like us are increasingly important. I sat in the cold for four hours, watching the end of the comics, the fancy brigades, and all 18 string bands without leaving my front row seat. Roy and our granddaughter brought me coffee every 45 min or so and checked to make sure I was still able to move.

This is granddaughter with a member of the Greater Kensington String Band, from their "A Pirate's LIfe for Me" 2009 theme. Click around the Flickr photostream for more Mummers.

The official Channel 17 video of them is here:

I have a partial video that I took with my little camera, but I am not sure I know how to use GoLive to edit it down to size.


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