Wednesday
Aug102011

Grandeur Revisited

The approach evokes the dream home: a thicket of pines along a winding drive, obscuring a 19th-century mansion tucked along Wissahickon Avenue in West Mount Airy. 

The call of cicadas drowns out the sound of gravel crunching under the car's tires. As the car moves around the drive's last bend, the manse reveals itself in all its gothic glory. Ahhh ... home.

It's easy to understand why George Clifford Thomas and his wife, Caroline, rarely left this estate during the late 1800s. Instead, the couple tended their 23 acres with the help of a small staff.

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Sunday
Aug072011

At the Dawn of 3-D

 

Brian May with a T.R. Williams original glass negative.The mania for 3-D imagery could not be suppressed. Millions gobbled up the goods as quickly as the studios could churn them out, on both sides of the Atlantic. Three-dimensional images of fanciful fantasies competed with idyllic visions of faraway places.

Sound familiar? But this was more than 150 years ago. In 1838, the year before Louis Daguerre and Henry Fox Talbot separately raced to announce discoveries in photography, Sir Charles Wheatstone developed drawings that laid the scientific foundations for 3-D imagery.

 

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Sunday
Aug072011

Talmud Illuminated

 

Talmud Illuminated from Tom Stoelker on Vimeo.

 

Last month, New York media artist Ben Rubin got the go-ahead to produce an LED light sculpture to be placed atop the new National Museum of American Jewish History on Independence Mall, set to open in November.

Conceived by architect James Polshek as an 8-foot-high flame emerging from an opening in the building's glass envelope, the sculpture uses a series of lights that will gently flicker five stories above the southeast corner of Fifth and Market Streets.

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Sunday
Aug072011

Appalachian Tales

Appalachian Tales from Tom Stoelker on Vimeo.

Karen Howser's braids give her the look of a mature Heidi. But instead of the fictional heroine's Swiss Alps, Howser is taking on the Appalachians and their famed 2,179-mile trail as her personal mission.

After starting in Georgia on March 15, Howser reached the trail's halfway point in Pine Grove Furnace State Park, just north of Gettysburg, in 90 days. She gets choked up as she recalls her battle to quit smoking after suffering a heart attack three years ago.

"It was the fight of my life," she says. "I thought - if could do that, then I can do this."

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Sunday
Aug072011

Plesant Hill Rebounds

 

Bill Brinkman moved into the caretaker's house in Pleasant Hill Park after the Japanese surrendered to MacArthur in '45. He was a paratrooper in the 11th Airborne over New Guinea and the Philippines before he served on land in the honor guard, around the time the Japanese signed documents of surrender aboard the USS Missouri.

"We were there to make damn sure there was no hanky-panky," Brinkman recalled.

He returned to a factory job in Philadelphia, but jumped at the chance to manage the Pleasant Hill fish hatcheries when that job was offered to him. The Victorian park had provided generations of children with their first fish-catching experiences.

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