Thursday, December 31, 2020

The Final Return of No Quarter As It Goes to XI!

Well, this took forever to get around to. Usually these articles show up in March, but we've all had other things on our minds. So let's wrap this. 

Here we stand, at the end of the No Quarter series (again). We started this with the Fifty States series in 2006 and started again with the America the Beautiful series, which gave commemorative quarters to a national park/forest/seashore/monument/farmer's market in each of the states and/or territories.

And these last few are the most esoteric and frankly beautiful of the lot. They are quirky, and part of that makes sense, since the treasury released these in order that the park/whatever was founded. So the big wilderness parks with mountains and hooved herbivores tended to come first, and now we are at the last bits, which can be a little quirky. But that quirkiness has been embraced to produce some stunners this time. I'm including the sole representative of 2021 for consideration as well, rather than leave that an outlier.

As always, I grade these, based on my own personal tastes. Your own mileage may vary, and readers are encouraged to get their own blogs to talk about them.

Way Cool =A
Not Bad = B
Kinda Lame (also known as Meh) = C
Very Lame = D
The Trump Administration Would Blame Obama = E

Let's dig in, one last time:

National Park of American Samoa - American Samoa

Bats are getting a bad press these days, but I really like this one. It amazes me in that "why didn't we think of this before?" way. Putting cute animals on coins! It's worked so well for Internet memes, why not here?

I mean, we are talking about American Samoa, here, which most Americans cannot locate on the map (OK, NPR reporters could, but nobody else). Well, we probably know it is somewhere in the South Pacific, with bonus points if you can put it to the east of West Samoa (which wants to be know as original-flavor, unleaded Samoa these days), and you get to go to the championship round if you put it at the northernmost part of the Tonga trench. Surprisingly, it is not something we took from the Japanese occupiers after WWII, but rather from the German occupiers in 1899, where it was used as a coaling station.

However, the cool thing about American Samoa is on the coin - it is the home of two varieties of fruit bat, and the Treasury shows Mother and Child fruit bats. The carving itself of one image, is superior to the mixed bag you see in some earlier quarters, and is really well-done.

It will be a surprise to people who suddenly find it in their change. And particular cool for the gothy culture.

Rating = A (Way Cool)

Weir Farm National Historic Site - Connecticut

OK, making this the subject of a coin is a bit of stretch, but then again, we are talking about Connecticut. Not a lot of places for National Parks. It got a really nice coin the first time around with a tree, and I half-expected to see a scenic lighthouse here. We get an image of someone painting an image. But the artist is confronting a blank canvas. Very meta. Much wow.

The coin celebrates Julian Aiden Weir, the founder of the American Impressionist movement. I know what you're saying. When we're talking about American Impressionists, we usually mean Rich Little and David Frye. This was a bonafied movement in the US,and consisted of "The Ten" - a group of impressionists that rejected the conservatism of previous groups and formed their own group (Process of Art History - Some people form a movement to rebel against the conservatism of their elders. Wait fifteen years, and then a NEW group will form to rebel against the original rebels).

The coin itself is interesting. It is very busy, and I wonder how it will press out in the final. The artist and easel in particular may see some wear. It does drive home the entire question of "what it is about" by engraving deeply a meme (A National Park For Art) where other coins would have just left the area as creative white space. So both laying the motto in the grass AND the catch-phrase provides some interesting balance along the right-hand side to balance the left.

Rating = B (Not Bad) 

Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve - US Virgin Islands

Interesting, Iconic, and something I would not normally connect with the US Virgin Islands. The VIs themselves are a chain in the Atlantic that most people would guess as "somewhere near the Bahamas, wherever those are (actually, it is east of Puerto Rico, and south of the British Virgin Islands). Bought from the Danes (the Danes? Yes, the Danes) in 1916 to keep them out of German hands during WWI (negotiations were concluded 6 days before the US officially declared war, for the cool price of 25 million and recognizing Danish claims in Greenland (Greenland? Danes? Yep.).

The coin looks like an ent wading through the flooded Isengard, but is really a mangrove, which is not something I connected with the VIs (OK, OK, there was nothing I connect with the VIs except for sophomoric jokes). But it is appropriate, and like the Connecticut state quarter (also with the tree) it should feel pretty good in the hand. Yeah, it works.

Rating = A (Way Cool)

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park - Vermont

OK, Like Connecticut, Vermont has the challenge of being a smaller eastern state - I mean, their state quarter celebrated collecting maple sap. And I am conflicted on this coin. On one hand, the site is important from the conservation movement with its attention to land stewardship - that ownership implies responsibility. On the other hand, the original Marsh was a successful Whig politician, Billings, who owned the land next was a founder of the Northern Pacific Railroad, and the Rockefellers were the son and daughter-in-law of THAT Rockefeller. So this park exists because people with a lot of money willed it to exist. 

The coin itself it OK - nothing to get excited about, sort of a Public Service Announcement of a coin. Planting a new tree way too close to the roots of an order one isn't exactly sound horticulture, but it works with the coin design. The balance it nice, with the sapling centermost, and a human element of someone carefully putting it in place is cool. But this is the only part of the National Park System in Vermont, except for a chunk of the Appalachian Trail, and at least they didn't decide to celebrate land sterwardship with a picture of the farmhouse.

Rating = B Not bad.

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve  - Kansas

The Tallgrass Prairie is a relic - once most of the space between the Mississippi and The Rockies was rolling grassland like that found within its confines, but now has been tamed/cultivated/settled.  And indeed, a lot of the land is still grazed by cattle, replacing the bison that once dominated the ecosystem. They could have gone with buffalo, since they reintroduced a herd about ten years back, but instead went with a quiet moment for the coin.

I like this one. It is relatively simple presentation for a site that specifically doesn't have purple mountains majesty, but rather celebrates a non-fruited plain. The grasses are native, and so is the butterfly (a Regal Fritillery, for those keeping score). Yeah, I could make a Mothra joke, but this is a nice moment of peace captured on a coin. Good work

Rating = A (Way Cool)

Tuskegee Airman National Historic Site - Alabama

The final quarter of the series celebrates the African-American pilots of the Second World War. Breaking the color barrier of allowing black pilots to train for combat, the airmen fought both fascism in Europe and racism on the home front - the two wars noted on the coin. They were not just first, they were good - needing to prove themselves continually to a skeptical, often hostile, command structure.  

The coin itself is balanced for everything that it carries - Pilot in front, two P-51 Mustangs in flight overhead, the control tower of Morton Field, where they trained, in the background. A lot of elements in this coin, but unlike a few others, it pulls together into a cohesive image. It is a fitting wrap-up, both for subject and design, for the series.

Rating = A (Way Cool)

And that's the lot. Ten years of quarters. I haven't heard anything about a new series, though they will be doing a General Washington Crossing the Delaware quarter in 2021. And they did a Presidential Gold(ish) Dollar program that sort of petered out from public use, AND a First Spouse $10 series that was always a collectable. But should they decide to put us through this again, I will be here to celebrate it and mock it. Maybe.

More later, 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Season's Greetings

 Wishing you a safe and secure Holiday Season from Grubb Street

More later,

Monday, December 07, 2020

Life in the Time of the Virus - The Gathering Dark


Room For Tourists by Edward Hopper, 1945

Month Nine? Yes, I believe it is month nine.And things grow still more serious as we press on into winter.

As I write this, we are at over 280,000 deaths in the this county, by official count. Hospital beds are approaching critical state, and there is nowhere to send people. We are hitting 9/11 levels of death, every day. There are some bright spots on the horizon for vaccines, but the current administration, soon to be former, has pretty much revealed they have no real plan for distribution, and no plan to make a plan. There are tough times ahead.

Add to this the seasonal challenge in this part of the world. Seattle is tucked in the upper lefthand corner of the Continental US, so far north that the bulk of Canada's population is actually further south than we are. This means that summers are unnaturally long, but then again, so are winter nights. We lose the sun about four in the afternoon, and do not see dawn until after seven in the morning. In the days when I had a commute, I was used to arriving at work in darkness. Now I do the same, but at least I don't have to wear shoes. 

Our household Thanksgivings have been sprawling affairs, with friends from our various lives filling one (and occasionally two) long tables, with everyone bringing something to contribute. This year we rolled with the punches. I still brined and slow-roasted a turkey, the Lovely Bride made rolls, gravy, and cranberry sauce, and friends provided wine and a plethora of sides. Then we loaded everything up in the bajillion take-out containers accumulated over the previous eight months and we engaged in an epic delivery schedule, then gathered together on a Zoom call as we shared a meal. It was a major challenge, and the team rose to it.

Oh, there was an election, as well, also noted in these pages. Republicans were roundly voted down in this state, so as is typical for the GOP, they have cried foul and refused to admit it. No one cares. The top Republican in Washington State is our Secretary of State, and the nuttier Republicans are mad at her for standing up for the voters. So we have a chance of surviving as well, from their side. Pity that the current federal administration that has done so much to enable this crisis now is dragging its feet to help the next guy accomplish anything.

Our communications with the outside world are few and far between. Grocery shopping (the local Safeway is awash with masks, though we never quite caught on to the idea of one-way aisles). Once a week for new comics (fewer now than usual). Waving at passersby while raking leaves. We had an exterminator in that found mice within the foundation wall. Communications with our work is mostly video calls and slack channels. The cats have adapted well, and take for granted that we are around all the time.

And the local newspaper has shrunk, literally. Last week I noticed that the front page is about a half-inch smaller than the earlier issues that were to be recycled. There was a disruption for a couple days when they said they had a printing problem. Apparently the solution is a printing press that is slightly smaller. I did not find the local paper mentioning this to anyone in their pages. The magazines have been bearing up as well, the New Yorker talking about people bearing up under COVID, the Bon Appetite talking about restaurants that, hopefully, will open once this particular grim reaper passes on. One of the good things I have discovered is the Canadian version of the Great British Baking show, which captures a lot of fun and supportive innocence of the early editions of the show in England.

We have been fortunate, if one can call it that. We have remained healthy, even though friends of friends and colleagues working in other states have suffered illness and loss from this. We are careful, but even avoiding super-spreader events does not provide immunity. We look for this passing, but not today, not tomorrow, and not next month. But it will pass.

We are at the end of the beginning, I think, and I have hope for that which comes next. Because I fear if we let things get worse.

 More later,