Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hey, let's go to the Parthenon!

My home state, New York, has a lot of things. Statues, roller coasters, giant Life Savers rolls, headless horsemen, sleepy hollows, and all kinds of other wacky, bizarre crap that I know and love, but there's one thing that we don't have:

the parthenon

A Parthenon.

Tennessee wins!

OK, maybe not. New York, after all, never had a Scopes Monkey trial, but it's still pretty cool that just hours away from me there is a full scale replica of the Parthenon, leftover from Tennessee's 1897 Centennial Exposition, and a week or so ago I decided that Bryan, Kristin, and I needed to go visit it. Armed with an itinerary and a lunch recommendation from my friend Rod, who used to work at Vandy, we hopped in the car and drove to the Parthenon, just like the kids in "Percy Jackson", minus Uma Thurman's severed head.

The Parthenon at Nashville houses an art collection, a collection of plaster casts of the suriving marbles from the original Parthenon:


(and wow, Poseidon was totally ripped! See?)

poseidon's torso

and the real showpiece, a gilded statue of Athena that is the largest indoor statue in the western hemisphere:

Athena and I

That's me in front of it, roughly the same size as Nike, the statue in Athena's hand.

Before you can see the statue of Athena, you have to go through the Parthenon gift shop, which sells many inferior likenesses of varying sizes:

tiny athenas

The faces on those look cheap and tacky, while the real thing looks surprisingly regal:

closeup on Athena's face

I could have walked around the naos staring at that thing for hours. Some of it is just the hugeness of it, as anything done on that scale and then covered in gold leaf tends to draw the eye, but some of it is also the intricacy and the attention to detail. It's like twenty statues piled on top of one big one, as if Athena were a giant covered with Lilliputians. The shield, for example, is covered with figures from Greek myth:

Athena's shield (1)

Athena's shield (2)

Not only that, but another set of figures representing other myths and characters is painted on the inside:

shield interior


The statue of Nike is a small work of art on its own:


and even Athena's sandals,

Athena's platform sandals

costume, and crown:

Athena's profile

are covered with intricate, smaller details. The room itself, the naos, is equally impressive, flanked at the far end by huge bronze doors:

Athena, facing the cella doors

There is a matching set of doors in the treasury room behind the naos, and both sets are decorated with heads and medallions:

bronze lion head

Kristin stood by one to give a sense of scale:

lion's head and Kristin

and then demonstrated that even though the doors weigh about seven tons each, they are hung well enough on bearings and pivots that you can move them with a gentle push from one hand:

Kristin and cella door

The treasury room also holds a mini-museum to the construction of the Nashville Parthenon, with molds, sketches, and plaster models of the exterior pediment sculptures:

working model (1)

After you stare at them and then go back and stare at Athena again for a while, you can go outside and stare at the real, concrete ones:

east pediment

Since I'm a big nerd, it was a pretty fascinating experience, but it can be a little jarring to be immersed in the Parthenon for an hour and then to go outside and glimpse Nashville through the columns:

columns and nashville

The Parthenon is the only building from the exposition still surviving on the Centennial Park site, although it's not the original, which was built of brick, plaster, and wood. There are some other relics scattered around the park grounds, though, like the pond, some columns and statues, and this:

"Tennessee" prow

That's a concrete ship's bow, representing the dreadnought Tennessee. The bronze on the front:


is from the original battleship. The concrete is crumbling, which can be expected from something meant to be temporary that is over a hundred years old, and only extends a few feet past the bronze sculpture before coming to a flat stop. There is a staircase in the middle for people to climb up pretend they are on the ship, so of course we did:

me on the prow

bryan on the prow

and, yes, Bryan's king of the world, because "Titanic" has seeped so far into our collective consciousness that it's now a default gesture whenever anyone gets near the front of a ship.

After we ran out of things to see in the park we drove around the back of the Vandy campus to get to Jackson's Bar and Bistro, which was pretty busy since we wandered in at brunchtime:

kitchen rush

We split a beer cheese appetizer:

beer cheese

and I had a delicious grilled pimento cheese BLT:

pimento blt

minus the T, since I dislike tomatoes. After lunch we walked around the neighborhood a little, went to an interesting bookstore across the street, and then decided to head for the Nashville City Cemetery, since we couldn't think of anything else to do and none of us were sure of how to get to Music Row. I really need to plan a better itinerary next time, I think.

The cemetery contained a surprising number of above the ground tombs (surprising to me, anyway, since I think of those as something that's needed more in swampier climates), including this oddly coffin-shaped one:

casket shaped tomb

A lot of the statues are very eroded or broken:

weathered prayer

eroded couple

bare limbs

but some of the stones and urns are still in very good shape:

urn and willows

key and something

I mean, it's pretty clear what's going on here, even with a little erosion:

angel of death

This stone was probably the oddest one we saw:

boulder headstone

I figure a boulder with a lamp on top has to have a story behind it, but this is all I've been able to find. The lack of information made for a frustrating end to a pretty fun day.

Monday, February 22, 2010


The school paper tries really, really hard to drive home the importance of their stories through dedicated reporting and quality writing. While they don't often succeed through those methods, sometimes they accidentally prove their point through the inept and clumsy attempts at reporting that those of us who read the paper have grown to expect and even, sometimes, to love.

Case in point: There was an angry protest rally on campus on Friday. The Governor of Tennessee recently announced a six percent cut in higher education funding, and people are not happy about it. They had speeches, signs, and anger, which I saw when I was walking back from a lunch meeting:

stairs, protest, and hodges library

The school newspaper, known for their hard hitting headlines, gave the rally extensive coverage that included three photos, two of which had captions:

more then 100

"More then 100 students"? Like there were more students, and then 100 came after that? That seems wrong, but surely a newspaper staff that boasts a news editor, three copy editors, and two chief copy editors knows the difference between "then" and "than", right?

The second caption may shed some light on the answer to that question:

Fridays rally

I had no idea that all of the people at the rally were named Friday, but it was good of the Fridays to rally against the budget cuts. God knows that, based on the quality of the student newspaper at the state's flagship institution, higher education needs all the funding it can get. Or, in the case of the second caption, higher eduation.

We can start by spending that money on English teachers.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Colossus falls down

I own a lot of action figures, mostly related to comic books. I used to display them all at once on every available shelf space in my apartment, but eventually it got to be too much to keep up with, so now I just display a few and every once in a while I rotate them out and display a few others.

A few weeks ago I removed a large, heavy figure of Colossus from the back room and set him up on top of one of the bookcases, but every few days I come home to this:

fallen colossus

That's not a bookcase. That's the floor. He doesn't always land the same way, but he keeps toppling from his perch, and I'm starting to think I might need to move him. In the meantime, though, I just keep standing him back up, and when I did it today after I got home from the grocery store I suddenly felt like taking pictures.

standing colossus

He doesn't look like he should fall down, right?

Jean Grey doesn't fall down:


Ozymandias doesn't fall down:


Starman doesn't fall down:


The Human Torch doesn't fall down:

the human torch

Aquaman doesn't fall down:

aquaman (1)

but he does get this, "Get that camera out of my face!" look if you catch him in dim light:

aquaman (2)

Colossus, though... he falls down.

Maybe he just doesn't like heights.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Concord, TN

I noticed when I was looking through the last few batches of pictures I've taken that I've kind of fallen into a rut as far as where I go on walks with the camera. I mean, I love the University Gardens, Wall Avenue, and Market Square as much as the next person (probably more than a lot of people, now that I think about it), but there have to be other places that are just as interesting, if I could figure out how to find them. I thought about it for a couple of days, and realized that even though I've lived here for a few years, I know practically nothing about the surrounding towns.

That's how I found the historic village of Concord. When I looked at the list towns surrounding Knoxville on wikipedia, Concord jumped out because it's one of a handful that are unincorporated, and when I followed the link to Concord's wikipedia page, there was a cute picture and a story about the town being listed as a historic neighborhood on the National Register of Historic Places. The article also mentioned a Concord Park, so I searched for that, found the directions, and headed out this morning.

Concord Park is pretty standard, as parks go. It has picnic areas and playgrounds:

circus wagon (1)

circus wagon (2)

and some boat launches and fishing docks:

concord park dock (1)

concord park dock (2)

The lake itself was quiet, and I was the only one around.

clouds reflected


It's probably really pretty in the summer. Being that it was cold and a little windy, though, I decided to head for the village itself. According to the wiki page, much of the village was flooded when Fort Loudon Lake was created, and the parts that are left are showing their age.

reflection portrait

There's an art gallery in the old bank building:

olde concord gallery (1)

olde concord gallery (2)

but for the most part the historical part of the village looks like it's badly in need of preservation. I saw a lot of fallen bricks and crumbling masonry, and the Baptist church looked a little rough:

baptist church (1)

baptist church (2)

baptist church (3)

church offices

I was curious about what it would look like inside, since the windows were covered over from within, but I could tell by the noise that church was in progress, and I didn't know how they would feel about someone with a camera slipping in the back. I might have only been ten miles from home, but ten miles can be a long way, and people's faith should be respected if you haven't been invited. I've seen enough movies to have a pretty good "Don't wander in there, ok?" sense, and if the church service is loud enough that I can hear the pastor outside, I'm going to go with that feeling and not end up in "Children of the Corn Part 12".

On the way out of town, I did stop to pull in at a pumpless gas station/former restaurant/bait shop:

drive in window

phillips 66

all kinds of sandwiches

All in all, it turned out to be a pretty fantastic morning trip. That sandwich sign is fantastic, and was worth the ten minute drive. I'd hang that thing in my house if it was for sale, and you know how much I hate putting things on my walls. I can't wait to see what else is waiting in the rest of east Tennessee.