These Boots Are Made….

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Who’d have thought it?  Reading a book recently on the American Civil War – blame my interest in the subject being piqued by Ken Burns’ mesmerising documentary series – I belatedly realised a greater significance behind the lyrics of Nancy Sinatra’s 1966 global hit These Boots Are Made for Walkin’which, with this new year being 2016, celebrates its 50th anniversary.  

 

Most cowboy boots had a cutaway heel which made them ideal for placing in stirrups but not so good for walking. Any boots which were good for walking would advertise the fact. And as cowboy boots go, they don’t come any larger than this pair in today’s photo that can be found in Seattle: the 19 feet-tall  boots belonging to Georgetown’s “Hat ‘n’ Boots,” that have become a fixture and tourist attraction in Oxbow Park since 2003.

 

And these boots were made, not for walkin’, as Nancy would have it, but as part of a cowboy-themed gas station. They were originally Cowboy and Cowgirl toilets (the slightly smaller one was for the ladies). 

 

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Mention ‘vanishing point’ to me and the first thing that the old grey cells come up with is Richard C. Sarafian’s wonderful 1971 existential road movie of the same name – Vanishing Point has everything you could want in a cult car classic: a naked biker chick, a sweet muscle car, car chases, a likeable radio DJ, and lots of trippy scenes.

 

But technically – and this is where I should really have been paying more attention at school – ‘vanishing point’ is a term used in mathematics and denotes a point that receding parallel lines appear to converge to. It is used in linear perspective in relation to a stationary point (the placement of the observer). Objects seem to disappear at the vanishing point.

 

We also see it a lot in photography, and our vanishing point in today’s photo – taken at the very futuristic, almost Stanley Kubrick 2001: A Space Odyssey-inspired walkway to the Seattle Museum of Flight – comes via the wonderful old-school 21/4 Leitz Super-Angulon 1959 lens that vanished from my possession when I stupidly sold it to that wonderful emporium Glazer’s Camera before returning home last December to Glasgow.

 

But all is well again – Glazer’s kindly held on to it until I came to my senses and recently sold it back to me! It has now been reunited with my trusty old Leica M3. Thanks Dante & Mark!

 

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It’s time to raise your glass in honour of World Whisky Day today! Yes, of course, a special day that could only have been created by a Scot – and unlike many Scots who have lost a fortune on the water of life, the Young Scot who was the creator of this day of days recently became a millionaire on the back of his idea.

 

World Whisky Day – or even World Whiskey Day for our grammatically incorrect American cousins – is held on the third Saturday in May, and was established in 2012 by Blair Bowman, now 24, from his bedroom while studying in Barcelona, after he noticed there was a World Gin Day. After searching online, he was surprised to see that there was not an established annual WWD – so he bought the domain name and kickstarted the event by spreading the word via social media.

 

But like the whisky, it soon became a fast-growing global brand, and within twelve months WWD was annually attracting around 250,000 attendees to whisky-themed events in over 40 countries, with 12,000 followers on Twitter. And such was its growth & potential, last year a publishing firm, Edinburgh-based Hot Rum Cow, a drinks magazine, purchased the assets of WWD for an undisclosed fee, that was rumoured to run into six figures.

 

And he’ll need that money to buy one of the special bottles of whisky I saw released for today: the £20,000 exclusive 40-year-old Balvenie, which is sold in a handcrafted box made of 1786 Russian reindeer leather in collaboration with bespoke British shoe maker George Cleverly, that also includes two crystal glasses and a copper dog.

 

That’s just a little too rich for me – but I’ll raise a glass to celebrate today with my favourite tipple of Oban 14-year-old while watching the wonderful little Ken Loach whisky-fuelled movie on Netflix, The Angels’ Share.

 

Happy World Whisk(e)y Day!

 

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The “Carry On” franchise contains the largest number of films of any British series, and next to the James Bond films, it is the second longest running UK film series, with 31 low-budget comedies (all with the same saucy seaside postcard humour, but without the talent of Donald McGill) between 1958 and 1992.

 

Many of these films had a tongue-in-cheek ancient historical take to them – and the last of the series, Carry On Columbus, was arguably the worst of all, as it spoofed the explorations of Columbus (Jim Dale), who is greeted in the New World by Indians with Brooklyn accents! All of which is fitting for today, because….many countries in the New World celebrate the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas – on October 12, 1492 – as an official holiday.

 

There are many statues of and buildings named after Columbus in the US. Here in Seattle, the Columbia Center – the tallest skyscraper in the downtown Seattle skyline and the tallest building in the State of Washington – is the very prominent building named after the Genoese explorer. But there are many who would argue that Columbus wasn’t the first European to discover the New World – many of them to be found here in Seattle.  

 

Over in the Nordic republic of Ballard, on Shilshole Bay Marina, there’s also a very large bronze statue that commemorates the Norse explorer Leif Eriksson, who is believed to have landed in the Americas about 500 years before Columbus – but, being a good Nordic, the joke goes that he was sensible enough to keep quiet about discovering America!

 

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Seattle Gas Light Company (1906-1956) left behind some of Seattle’s most visible ruins: The rusty, hulking, industrial skeleton in Gas Works Park are beloved for their steampunk eeriness – see previous blog entry, Gassed.

 

But also impressive are the concrete train trestles that still stand near the northeast entrance of the park, where coal cars once rode up and deposited quarry into Northern Pacific Railway trains waiting below. They may be a ghost train of the past but, just like the former gas plant, these, too, have taken on the appearance of looking like an art installation through the years.

 

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We’re going from punk to steampunk today, as steampunk is the impression you first get when you hit the impressive Gas Works Park in the Fremont/Wallingford neighbourhood – so-called, because the 9.1 acres public park is on the sight of the former Seattle Gas Light Company gasification plant that was in operation from 1906 to 1956.

 

There are tall towers, big pipes, valve handles, and it’s just a really cool piece of machinery that over the years since its closure, has almost taken on the appearance of being a sculptured piece of art work installed in the park. It is fenced off though so you can’t actually go in and climb all over the stuff. There are though some notable bits of graffiti on the valves and pipes, so some brave budding Banksy scaled the fence to leave their mark on the instillation.

 

Besides the obvious cool factor of the plant, this is really one of Seattle’s best and most unusual public park that, apart from the visually stunning gas plant, offers grassy hills for kite flying, sunbathing, picnics, and wide vistas of Lake Union and the city.

 

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With last year’s closing of the much-loved Gas Works Park Kite Shop there are no dedicated kite shops left in the Seattle area. Which is a pity, as the artificial “Kite Hill” at the top of Gas Works Park is one of the best places to catch some wind in the city to go fly a kite – hours of entertainment for all,  as the young boy I watched and photographed there recently with his family showed.

 

But the mere sight of seeing kites flying on a hill always reminds me of a street busker who ‘left’ me and went on to become a big star: none other than the Glaswegian chanteuse Eddi Reader. In the late 1970s, one of Eddi’s favourite pitches to play was Buchanan Street Bus Station in Glasgow. And each time I passed her on the way to college, I would always put some money in her guitar case and she would give me a sweet smile.

 

She disappeared into thin air, with none of her regulars knowing what had happened to her. But a couple of years later, when I was listening to the radio, I suddenly heard a distinctive voice – it was Steady Eddi, and she was now the lead singer for Fairground Attraction, singing their debut song, Perfect, that went on to become a big No.1 smash hit.  And when Eddi went solo, her fourth album was the incredible Angels & Electricity, with the first track being the simply haunting Kiteflyer’s Hill, all about a tender look back at a lost love.

 

If you ever get the chance to see Eddi live, do so, as you’ll never forget the experience – not only an unbelievable voice, but she ‘sings’ with the whole of her body. She lives each song. I still remember vividly an unbelievable performance she gave unplugged, on a bitterly cold late December evening in 1998 at St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh.  Her performance that night, coupled with the weather, the time of the year and the surroundings, sent more than a shiver up my spine. 

 

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Tourists can be mistaken for not knowing its real name, but I would imagine most Seattleites, who’ve lived here all their life, and perhaps for eons have crossed it every day, wouldn’t be able to tell you the real name of the “Aurora” Bridge. It probably takes a smart-alec interloper, such as myself, to tell you that its real name is the George Washington Memorial Bridge.

 

But certain things stick, and the Aurora Bridge got its common moniker because it carries Aurora Avenue (Highway 99) across the ship canal from Queen Anne Hill to Fremont. The state officially dedicated the bridge on February 22, 1932 – George Washington’s 200th birthday – and the bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

 

But whether Aurora or George Washington Memorial, it has a somewhat dubious last destination scene for the depressed by being the Northwest’s most notorious suicide site for over 80 years. It’s famously where many have ended it all with a 164-foot leap as they bid adieu to this cruel world. All of which is a great irony (and I don’t mean the steel girders), because I have always felt that the real beauty of this cantilever bridge is to be found from the stunning views underneath looking up, where all the artistic and architectural detail can be found.

 

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Now celebrating its 40th Anniversary, Seattle International Film Festival creates experiences that bring people together to discover extraordinary films from around the world. Recognised as one of the top film festivals in North America, SIFF is the largest, most highly attended film festival in the United States.

 

The 25-day festival is renowned for its wide-ranging and eclectic programming, presenting over 250 feature films from over 70 countries each year. SIFF also helps promote local films and film-makers.  And in 2011, one of the big sleepers shown at SIFF turned out to be the local Bainbridge Island-based comedy, Old Goats – and this year, Taylor Guterson and his team have released a companion piece, Burkholder, for another quirky, life-affirming, low-key comedy about friendship and the joys of ageing.

 

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April brings with it the Seattle Architecture Foundation’s 2014 season, with tours revealing some of downtown’s best-kept secrets, contained in buildings many casually walk past without even giving them a second thought. One of the perennial favourites of Seattle Architecture Tours is the Rainier Tower, designed by Minoru Yamasaki, the Seattle-born architect best known for designing the infamous twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.

 

An architectural delight by anyone’s standards, Rainier Tower is a compelling contrast to standard skyscrapers! Perched on an eleven story pedestal base, with office space above and exquisite retail space below, you will notice this one of a kind building as you approach 5th Avenue and University in downtown Seattle by its unusual appearance, being built atop an 11-storey, 37 m (121 ft) concrete pedestal base that tapers towards ground level, like an inverted pyramid.

 

This is one of my favourite buildings to photograph, because of its unique design – and Seattle lore has it that Yamasaki got the idea while out drinking one night as a student, and taken in by the design of the stem glass tumbler then used exclusively for the favoured amber nectar provided by the local brewery, of Rainier beer.

 

 

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