James Gurney: The Soy Bean

Soy Painting

This lovely painting by James Gurney appeared in the July, 1987 edition of the National Geographic, long one of my favorite magazines since early childhood. I’ve had multiple collections of hard copy editions, gathered over the years and then given away when moving (they’re heavy!) and then gathered again. I recently scored a complete set on DVD that included everything up through the 90’s – it still runs on my XP virtual machine – so I was able to get rid of all but the few special editions I wanted to keep.


Gurney managed to get dozens of things based on soy into his painting; about the only thing I haven’t spotted is nattōThe photo of the painting came with the following caption:

Invisible ingredient in countless products, the soybean plays an amazingly pervasive role in everyday life. Artist James Gurney included more than 60 soybean-related products in this painting, done in the style of Norman Rockwell. He not only called on neighbors and friends for models, but also portrayed himself and his wife emerging from the store, startled by a skateboarding boy carrying a cone of tofu “ice cream”; the boy’s shorts-like the tablecloth-bear a bean-pod motif.

The bags the couple carry, the store-window and sidewalk displays are replete with items that have a soybean connection

Cardboard, glues, and animal and human foods are commonplace soybean products. The sidewalk customer’s caulking, paint, wallpaper, gasoline, and the muffin he buys all owe a debt to soy-as does the bicycle tire.

The beer sign reflects the use of soy meal in the brewing process. The fire extinguisher uses soy protein in its foam. And pre-1981 National Geographics were printed on soy-lecithin-lubricated presses. The car symbolizes an experimental one built with soybean plastic by Henry Ford. The artist’s final tribute: He used soy-based paint.

There’s a lot of conflicting information out there regarding the health benefits or detriments of soy; it’s hard to know who’s right at this point in time, but I’ll keep enjoying my tofu and other fermented soy products.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share this delightful and intriguing work of art.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

1954: Creature from the Black Lagoon



High-resolution production still. Notice the cloning to make the image wider. Trivia: redditor /u/Artikunu chimed in to say, “Fun fact: my great grandfather is the creator of the Creature From the Black Lagoon’s mask and costume. The mask was a treasured family heirloom, until one of my relatives sold it. It was worth around $75,000.”

I love photos like this. At one point I had a beautiful production still of Margaret Hamilton as the wicked witch of the west, autographed to me and procured for me by my father. Sadly, it was purloined about 25 years ago by one of the young men I used to serve as a Webelos den leader; I was never able to recover it. On the other hand, I have a number of great production stills of my dad in various rôles, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

Light Test


Dad with Barbara Stanwyck and a lighting technician: “Man with a Cloak,” 1951.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Seegers on the Road

Today is John Steinbeck’s 112th birthday – or would have been, if he weren’t dead. But some pictures that ran across my Facebook feed this morning seemed somehow relevant.


May 1921. Washington, D.C. “Professor Charles Seeger, a composer, is a brother of Alan Seeger, the war poet. His wife is a distinguished violinist.” Little Pete Seeger, 2 years old, and family along with their camping rig. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative.

The Seeger family  More on this intriguing bit of ephemera was written about in the Washington Post (text and image found at Shorpy):

Washington Post, May 22, 1921.


Charles Seeger, Wife and Three Sons See World While Living Outdoors


Mrs. Seeger Famed as Violinist. Husband Professor of Music In California.

Bound for wherever they happen to stop, paying no attention to daylight saving or other forms of time, and spreading music wherever they go, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Seeger, once of the University of California and now “wandering minstrels” of the world at large, are encamped at Rock Creek park, their home an itinerant Ford and a home-made trailer. They are accompanied by their three little boys.

Mr. and Mrs. Seeger, the latter known in musical circles as Constance Edson Seeger, are taking the boys to museums and places of interest wherever they stop, and the two [older] boys are learning to play the violin.

Their Profession in Music.

“We are trying to solve the problem of educating three boys, and at the same time lead a worth-while outdoor life,” said Mr. Seeger yesterday. Mr. Seeger says that they got the idea while they were at the University of California, where he was head of the music department for seven years after graduating from Harvard and studying music in Europe and where Mrs. Seeger gave violin recitals following her graduation from the New York Institute of Musical Art and a course at the Conservatory of Paris.

The Seegers came here from Richmond and to that city from Pinehurst, N.C., where they spent some time. In addition to the three boys, Charles, 8; John, 6, and Peter, not yet 2 [actually, he had just turned 2], they have taken with them Miss Marion Brown, whom they picked up at Pinehurst and who tutors the children and cares for them while their parents are giving concerts.

The Seeger “home” is a house of five and a half feet in width by fourteen feet in length, and contains all the comforts of home, including a sewing machine, a portable organ and games for the boys. It even has a front porch, which slides under the trailer while traveling.

Going to New England.

The Seegers spent the winter at Pinehurst and are now en route to the New England States for the summer, expecting to go back South when the winter approaches again. Increasing rents make no difference in their lives, as a camping place is always available.

Mr. Seeger is the brother of the famous war poet Alan Seeger, whose “I Have a Rendezvous With Death,” written shortly before he died, has become immortal.

Mr. and Mrs. Seeger gave a concert lecture at the Corcoran Art Gallery last night.


May 23, 1921. Washington, D.C. “Professor Charles Louis Seeger and family.” Charles Seeger, wife Constance Edson Seeger and their 2-year-old son Pete, of future folkie fame. National Photo Co. Collection glass negative.

Another image of the itinerant Seegers. These images have nothing directly to do with Steinbeck, but there’s a distinctly “Grapes of Wrath” feel about their living style in these pictures. They weren’t destitute like the Joads, but my mind couldn’t help but make the connection. There is part of me that would love to be able to live on the road… as long as I had a comfortable motor home with some bookshelf space and the funds to support such a lifestyle.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Practice Safe Computing!

This can’t be stressed enough, or repeated often enough. Just got an email today in my business account that looked like this:

Dear Sir/Madam,

The attached payment advice is issued at the request of our customer.

The advice is for your reference only.

Yours faithfully,
Global Payments and Cash Management


This is an auto-generated email, please DO NOT REPLY. Any replies to this email will be disregarded.

Security tips

1. Install virus detection software and personal firewall on your
computer. This software needs to be updated regularly to ensure you
have the latest protection.
2. To prevent viruses or other unwanted problems, do not open
attachments from unknown or non-trustworthy sources.
3. If you discover any unusual activity, please contact the remitter of
this payment as soon as possible.

This e-mail is confidential. It may also be legally privileged.
If you are not the addressee you may not copy, forward, disclose
or use any part of it. If you have received this message in error,
please delete it and all copies from your system and notify the
sender immediately by return e-mail.

Internet communications cannot be guaranteed to be timely,
secure, error or virus-free. The sender does not accept liability
for any errors or omissions.


Unfortunately, far too many people will be stung by a generic sounding email like this. “Wow, someone sent me money!” will be the initial response, and they’ll happily unzip and execute the attached “payment notice.”

Unfortunately that attached file is not a payment notice, but an executable file (a program) which will infect your computer with malware, adware, spyware, and heaven knows what else; turn your machine into part of a robotic network (a botnet) for spreading spam and viruses, search for passwords and sensitive financial data, encrypt all your files and demand a ransom to unlock them (this is a particularly nasty one), or any number of other unholy things.



If WordPress supported blinking text, I’d use that obnoxious tag too, just to make sure I had your attention.

Be especially wary of any file that ends in “.exe”. This is one of the basic rules of safe computing, but far too many people don’t know about it. One of the worst things Microsoft ever did was to suppress the display of file extensions by default, assuming people didn’t care or wouldn’t understand what they are for. As a result, far too many people are simply ignorant of the dangers inherent in clicking email attachments that could be programs. All they would see in the above message would be “ttcopy.”

Notice the ironic security warning in the body of the email itself: “To prevent viruses or other unwanted problems, do not open
attachments from unknown or non-trustworthy sources.” This is misdirection at its finest; people will be grateful for the warning, if they even bother to read it, and happily execute the malicious payload.


The Old Wolf has spoken.

Mario on the Sheng

As a follow-up to my post on strange ways of making music, I share with you an astonishing performance of the Mario theme (it seems to be a very popular demonstration piece) on an odd Chinese instrument called the Sheng, one of the oldest Chinese instruments known. It has an odd quality that combines a wind instrument with a steel drum. The thing I love best about this performance is the incorporation of some of the game’s sound effects into the piece.

If you want to hear a young lady really get down on the sheng in a more traditional setting, have a listen here:

For what it’s worth, some more Mario follows:

There is more of interest  in the world than I could possibly learn in a thousand lifetimes.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Excuse me while I turn handsprings

I have a lovely computer. It’s really the first time in my life I’ve had a machine that was more robust than my needs dictated; it’s a nice Dell i7 core box running Win7 Pro and it runs like greased lightning. But over the past year or so, I’ve been plagued by one glaring problem that I couldn’t diagnose properly… until tonight.


It was my context menus. Right-click on anything, and that dratted menu would take about 30 seconds to pop up. When you’re working away at a project, you need speed and responsiveness, and this was getting worse and worse. Googling suggested the problem was in a defective context-menu handler, probably a third-party one, and recommended a number of long, involved, and messy investigations. I installed ShellExView and disabled shell extensions one by one, or in clusters using a binary search pattern, but nothing helped. Nothing. Ploret des yeulx, ma barbe blanche tiret, I was about to slit my wrists in frustration – but I finally found the culprit, something that didn’t show up in shell extensions or elsewhere: MPCBContextMenu. It’s a context menu handler that was installed on my system along with JustCloud, my current backup program.

JustCloud works well, I have unlimited storage, it backs up my stuff quietly and unobtrusively, and it was fairly cheap for a two-year plan. But this particular .dll file is a steaming mass of camel ejecta, and just pulling it out of my Program Files directory and re-booting solved the problem.

There are hardly words to express my relief. By the silken breast of Mogg’s mother – if you are having the same difficulty, go search for this file. It’s probably in your program files (x86) directory under JustCloud. Kill it. Exterminate it. BURN it with FIRE!

The Old Wolf rejoices.

Music Across the Ages

If you love music and aren’t afraid to genre-hop, or take on new tastes, please visit “The Daily Music Break.”

Updated daily, this website is a good way for people to listen to new music that they might not otherwise. I think Grooveshark just took a back seat for a while.

Mad props to Carl and his son, redditor /u/karsforkidz for creating and sharing this.



The Old Wolf has spoken.

New York, 1950s

Some photos of New York City taken by my father, found while scanning his collection of negatives. This is the city I knew as a child. Dad was not a great photographer, but was very enthusiastic, and did his own developing and printing. These pictures were taken between 1950 and around 1959, based on what the cars look like. All black & white photography Copyright 1950-2014 Old Wolf Enterprises.

Below: two views of 35 Carmine Street.

New York - Polichetti's Bakery

New York - Saltzman Tailor

History: No. 35 Carmine Street was constructed in 1877 by Bavarian-born brickmason and prolific tenement builder Peter Schaeffler, at a time when many of Greenwich Village‘s Federal and Greek Revival-style row houses were being replaced by tenements constructed to house the growing working-class and immigrant population. Featuring elements of the popular neo-Grec style in the design of the lintels, sills, and cornice, the building housed stores on the ground story and four families on each floor above. Built just prior to the 1879 tenement house law, the building had only two small square airshafts. Census data for 1880 shows that sixteen families resided at no. 35 Carmine Street, including three native-born families; first-generation immigrant families from Ireland (four), England (three), and Germany (one); and second-generation immigrant families from Ireland (two), England (one), Germany (one), and Scotland, via Canada (one). Residents were employed as a hatter, lawyer, watch case maker, bill collector and laundry worker, among other occupations. 1930 census records indicate that all fifteen families residing there were first-generation immigrant families from Italy. Residents held a variety of occupations, including bakery proprietor, cabinet maker, longshoreman, operator (men‘s clothing), and hat trimmer. By 1935, the number of apartments per floor had been reduced to two. City directories list the following commercial tenants: Experienced Hand Laundry (1950), A. Polichetti, baker, and Irving Saltzman, clothier (1959). The storefront had been occupied by a bakery in the early 1910s as well. In 1938 the western airshaft was enlarged and in 1939 architect Sidney Daub oversaw replacement of the existing storefronts; except for these changes, the building remains largely unchanged since its construction.  (Greenwich Village Historic District Extension II, Designation Report, June 22, 1910)

35 Carmine Street

35 Carmine Street as of June 2011, Google Street View

New York 1950 - Milkman

Milkman for Sheffield Farms Co. with typical New York brownstone in the background.

New York 1950 1

45th Street and 5th Avenue, looking north. The Fred F. French building on the northeast corner.

45th Street North

The same view as of June 2011, Google Street View

New York 1950 1a

5th Avenue and 39th Street, looking north. A New York Public Library lion is visible on the left.

39th Street North

The same view as of June 2011, Google Street View

New York - Church

Our Lady of Pompeii, Carmine Street. This is my family’s parish; many blessed events have taken place here.

New York - Corner Scene\

Our Lady of Pompeii church on the corner of Carmine and Bleecker Street, looking northwest.

241 Bleecker Street

The same view as of 2014, Google Street View

New York - Bocce Court

Common street scene in Greenwich Village – the bocce court

New York - Brownstone

New York Brownstone

New York - Ferris Wheel


Local traveling carnival

New York Sweeper 5


Janitor caring for a small courtyard.

Joe Darkroom


Dad in his “darkroom.”

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Saint Michel d’Aiguilhe, France


Click for a full-size version

I happen to be a dyed-in-the-wool francophile; how in the world did I ever miss knowing about this stunning accomplishment?

From Wikipedia:

Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe is a chapel in Aiguilhe, near Le Puy-en-Velay, France, built in 962 on a volcanic formation 85 metres (279 ft) high. The chapel is reached by 268 steps carved into the rock. It was built to celebrate the return from the pilgrimage of Saint James. In 1429, the mother of Joan of Arc, Isabelle Romée, was said to have come to the site to pray.

I would love to visit this chapel some day.

And you thought the theremin was weird.

Well, it is, sorta. But 50’s science fiction movies would never have been the same without it.

Here’s a video of Leon Theremin playing his own instrument:

The Japanese, of course, know how to take anything weird and push it over the top: Here’s an orchestra of young ladies playing Beethoven’s 9th on theremins built into Russian Matrochka dolls:

But thanks to modern technology (and some retro technology), people have figured out all sorts of new ways to make music.

Some geek figured out how to program old 5.25″ floppy drives to make music. This is not good for the drives, but it’s pretty cool:

But a good idea can always be made better:

Not to be outdone, Steve Ward and Jeff Larson realized that Tesla coils could be made to become musical:

The physics behind this feat is explained at Physics Buzz.

While Mario Brothers sounded good, I think Inspector Gadget sounded better:

And one last one, the most complex effort I’ve seen in this medium:

There are far more odd ways to make music than I could list here, but these were some which tickled my fancy.

Edit: Thanks to Inshadowz who pointed out this one using a dot-matrix printer to play “Eye of the Tiger”

Edit 2: Here’s a captivating demonstration of how using the same principle can create speech using nothing but a piano (The narration is in German, but the captions are adequate):

The Old Wolf has spoken.