Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween & NaNoWriMo Eve

When I lived in a small apartment in the Inner Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco, I had a view of a striking hill outside my living room window. Shortly after moving into the apartment, it was time for National Novel Writing Month, which begins the day after Halloween. That year, I experienced my most successful NaNoWriMo. I think my creative ideas were due in part to that hill. The apartment was small enough that I didn't have my own office in which to write, so I brought my laptop to the window seat overlooking the hill. I didn't know the name of it at the time (it's Grand View Park) so we christened it "Druid Hill." Quite fitting, I think. It was often covered in fog or lit up by a dramatic sky. I much prefer my current study, but I miss that hill.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Birds

Alfred Hitchcock had it right. Birds can be amazingly creepy.

The University of Washington did a study a few years ago that stuck with me. It didn't surprise me to learn that crows are the most intelligent bird. But what did surprise me was that they're intelligent enough to hold grudges against people they recognize--and that they can share their knowledge about bad people with other crows. Perhaps there's something to the fact that a group of crows is called a Murder of Crows....

Below are some of my favorite shots of birds going their creepy thing: crows on a mausoleum at Brompton cemetery in London and in a tree Bandelier national park in New Mexico, an unknown bird along the coast of the Arabian Sea, and a surly pigeon high on a sky scraper in New York.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Gargoyle Halloween Masks

Several years ago I found a Halloween mask of one of the famous gargoyle of Notre Dame, pictured here.

I spotted the gargoyle mask at a second-hand store in Bath, England, where I was studying one semester during graduate school. I remember the Oxfam shop clearly, because Bath, with its winding cobblestone streets and medieval buildings, is the perfect kind of place to celebrate Halloween.

That fall, I was in a program that had students from all over the world. Some of them hadn't previously celebrated Halloween, so a few of us decided to plan both a pumpkin-carving party and also a Halloween party. We were students without a lot of money, so our main decoration was replacing the lights in the flat with red light bulbs to create "hell." The party was a hit. After all, Halloween just needs is a bit of imagination.

I haven't stumbled across a gargoyle mask since then, but it got me thinking about which gargoyles would make a good mask. Below are some gargoyles that I think would translate into fun Halloween masks.

Hampton Court Palace

Oxford (I think! But I must find my original negative to be sure... Please let me know if you recognize this fellow and know where he's from.)

Westminster Abbey


The Brooklyn Museum's Sculpture Garden


Monday, October 10, 2011

The Loch Ness Monster

Loch Ness, a giant lake in the Highlands of Scotland, is the largest freshwater lake in Britain. The loch is almost a thousand feet deep in places, making it the perfect place for a monster to hide. Taking a boat out on Loch Ness, you can see the strong currents and mysterious ripples in the water. It's easy to imagine the legend of the monster is true.

Sure, the most famous photo of the monster has been debunked. But it's still fun to imagine the possibilities in that deep, dark loch...

The ruins of Urquhart Castle at the shore of Loch Ness.

A postcard of "Nessie" the Loch Ness Monster.

The village of Drumnadrochit has a Loch Ness Monster exhibit, including a fake monster that moves along the surface of this mini lake. I first visited the loch and exhibit as a kid, but it's great fun regardless of your age.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Foggy Oxford

Kicking off Halloween month, aka October, here's some spooky fog. As someone who loves a good mystery, I love how fog creates a wonderfully mysterious atmosphere. It's one of my favorite things about living in the Bay Area, and it was one of my favorite things about living in the UK. Here are some images of Oxford, England, in the fog. Cobblestone streets are definitely more fun as the fog rolls over you.

Oxford makes a great setting for a mystery novel, which is probably why so many mysteries have been set there. One of my favorites from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction is Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers.