Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Yes, indeed - cold cuts for New Year's. O.K., maybe not. Nevertheless - Happy New Year, folks!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

This is not supposed to happen here. No, no, no. On the other hand, I don't drive, I don't have to shovel's beautiful! It's white, it's soft, it's fluffy, and it makes the world incredibly quiet. What's not to like? Well, other than the fact that it might keep my plane from taking off tomorrow, thus depriving me of the Big Family Christmas. Which would be bad. Really.

So, as you might guess, I'll be maintaining radio silence for the next week. Look for fabulous photographs of exotic Hamilton, Ontario, formerly Canada's very own "Steeltown", beginning next, um.......Wednesday!

Meantime, Merry Christmas everybody!

Had dinner with some old friends this evening. We've known each other since the late '70s (yes, we're getting old - as their thirteen-year-old daughter was only too happy to point out), when J and I worked at the same camera store. Eventually, he and I went back to school, got fancy degrees, and went off to other things. Haven't seen them regularly for a long time. I was in Tampa, they were in New York. I was here, they were still in New York. Now "she"'s back while "he"'s still mostly in New York, teaching at Columbia. I'd gotten used to not seeing them, but I realize now just how much I've missed their company.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

O.K., I swear I will accept Jesus Christ as my Saviour (and Moses as my investment adviser) if this not only actually comes to pass, but it actually reaches to the Top (where the scum has truly risen) and convictions are returned all around.

I'm gonna be an atheist forever, aren't I?

Meanwhile, back at the photograph. A few seconds after I took this, the guy pulled what looked like a defunct 50 mm (hey, it coulda been a 35) lens out of the bag and, cackling, held it up to his eye. I guess he'd noticed my camera, huh? But, how many street folks do you know (well, period, I suppose, but...) who've got a 50 mm lens in their bag o' tricks?

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

So, I went to our annual departmental Christmas party today. The weather cooperated fully in setting the mood - snow. Lots and lots of snow. Since I don't own a car, and live in an apartment (so, no shovelling, either), snow doesn't really bother me. In fact, it's beautiful.

An odd thing happened at the party, though. I was sitting on a sofa, my back to a large picture window, sipping a glass of wine, when I felt something hit, lightly, the back of my head. Unwisely (it turned out), I ran my hand through my hair to brush whatever it was away. There was something, all right. I felt it with my fingers. At first. Then I felt a searing pain in one of those fingers, as if someone had stabbed it with a tiny white-hot poker. As you might imagine, I moved my hand rather quickly in an attempt to get the heck rid of whatever it was. Yes, folks - in the dead of winter, in the middle of a very snowy, cold day, while sitting indoors, I had managed to get my finger stung by a yellowjacket. Thanks to another of my co-workers, upon whom it landed when I flung it across the room (no, I wasn't aiming at her), the hornet soon found itself out in the cold.

In other news, I got William Eggleston's "Democratic Camera" today. I've mentioned this before, but, what the heck, I'll mention it again. I love Eggleston's photographs. And this book is just what the doctor ordered. 134 very nicely printed plates, plus essays, on good paper, well bound. If you haven't already got his "Guide", then you might want to consider this book instead since a good many of the photos from the "Guide" are included. Unfortunately, if you're reading this in Canada, and are thinking, "By golly, I'm sold, I'll order it!", well, Amazon Canada is out of it just now. Rats. But, they've got more on order, so.....

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mother of god, it's cold! Right now, it's -2C (you Yankee types'll just have to figure out the conversion for yourselves) and, by the weekend, the high is predicted to be -6C. That's too damn cold! I grew up in Ontario, where a minus sign in front of the temperature in December is normal. I moved to B.C. because it wasn't, damn it! In fact, the expected temperature in my home town, Hamilton, this Saturday (a mere 2 days before I return, once again, for the ritual we all know as "Christmas") is -7C. This is so very, very wrong!

And, you should check out the new link, "More Original Refrigerator Art", over on the right, there. I have no real idea who Tyler Monson is, but I sure like his photos.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Is nothing sacred?!?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

If you're looking for a Christmas present for a photographer, go get either "Saul Leiter: Early Color" or "Fred Herzog: Vancouver Photographs". In fact, get 'em both; they compliment each other perfectly. And they're great antidotes to the current digital madness. "Oh, I couldn't possibly shoot with a camera at anything less than ISO 800!", "Oh, noise - I hate it!", "No zoom?!? How could I possibly take photographs (sorry "capture images" - gees)?"

These guys worked with films with ISOs around 25, with single focal length lenses, and.....were fuckin' brilliant. And they didn't "capture" anything. They took photographs.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Went to see "Nixon/Frost" today. Ah, the memories. Nixon was such a creep while he was in politics, but such an interesting human being. He was paranoid, driven, had a massive inferiority complex, was socially inept... He would make a fantastic character in a Shakespearian tragedy.

One of my favourite stories about Nixon is one from Hunter Thompson's "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, 1972". Thompson, who had never written a thing about Nixon that didn't drip with venom, suddenly found himself invited to ride with Nixon to some campaign event. The two of them sat in the back of a limo for an hour or so discussing football. And Nixon knew his football! Thompson, as you may or may not know, began as a sportswriter. He was amazed at Nixon's depth of knowledge regarding players, teams, statistics... People are strange.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Could be a shot of an American automobile plant in a few months, but it's not. Nevertheless, you've got to love the Republican party - they will not back down. No sir, they're out to screw the working class in America as deeply into the ground as they possibly can, and won't quit till they're done. If you're an executive at a failed bank, never fear, the money's here! Your $500,000.00+ per annum is safe as long as the Republicans can draw a breath. But, if you're just a working stiff, well, you're stiffed.

These scum hate unions and all they stand for. You know, things like decent wages, healthcare plans, a pension... And they're willing to sink America to prove it. When you're drawing your last welfare cheque in a year's time, wondering what's going to happen next, remember who you've got to thank.

And just how dickheaded are the members of the not-soon-enough-to-be-forgotten Shrub administration? This dickheaded. I don't know about you, but I can't wait to hear just who it was that was so vital to Dumbya that the new President (hey - the first one in eight long years!) couldn't move in temporarily.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Some days are just a tad longer than others, aren't they?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Um, do aliens walk among us? Or do birds occasionally disguise themselves as humans?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

I don't know. If I worked scrubbing cars all day, I think I'd want more than half an hour for lunch.

Meanwhile, one of the nice things about politics? It's an equal-criminality employer. Granted, it still seems that more Republicans than Democrats like to play the game, but...

Monday, December 08, 2008

Mark Hobson, of The Landscapist, once opined that there's no such thing as "bad" light, and he's, technically, right. How, after all, can light be bad? But, let me tell you, it sure can be hard to work with sometimes. "Recalcitrant" light, perhaps?

Here in Vancouver at this time of year, the sun is either non-existent or a blazing fireball that barely gets above the horizon, even at not-so-high noon. The light skims across the landscape creating areas of blinding illumination and the blackest of shadows, with very little in between. Were I David Hobby, I'd be clapping my hands with glee at the wonderful opportunities such light presents for getting busy with small flashes, but I ain't. I've just gotten pared down to a G10, so I'm not likely to go carting a lot of strobes and umbrellas around, am I? (Unless, of course, the umbrella can do double duty by fending off rain and modifying light. Hey! How come nobody's making such a thing? It'd sell big here and in Seattle.)

Oh - about the photo. This place is a Vancouver landmark - the M&J Car Wash. It's alternative name is the Convict Car Wash. You'd know why if you could see the guys that work there. Appearances can, of course, be deceiving, and I'm sure they're a bunch of swell, hard-working, honest guys, but...

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Went to see "Milk" today. Go see it. And that concludes our review...sort of.

I have only a very vague memory of the actual historical events that the movie is about. At the time, the murder of an obscure (to Canadians, especially straight Canadians) American civic politician didn't really register. After all, we'd just come through the Civil Rights era, the Vietnam war era, the Watergate era, and were deeply into the Women's Rights era. This movie corrects that oversight.

Anita Bryant (her I remember) and her ilk were cut from the same intolerant cloth as George Bush, Rush Limbaugh, and Pat Robertson. Each of these people represents the very worst in humanity. Milk's victory in defeating her was a moment that should have made Californians, and Americans, proud. One can only imagine how he would feel today were he alive to see the shame of the passing of proposition 8 in California. Bigotry is alive and well, folks, it's just not quite so focused on skin colour anymore. Black, white, yellow, red - if you're gay, you don't have the same rights as other Americans. Gotta love equal-opportunity bigotry.

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

As everyone knows by now, one of the wonderful things about the Web and blogging is that, unlike writers for conventional (and necessary) media, bloggers can say pretty much whatever they want. We're not obliged to pacify editors, owners, or advertisers. So, the following...

Here in the Great White North, a cretin is currently Prime Minister. Now, everybody knows this, including even writers for The National Post (Canada's paper of the neo-conservative right). Yes, even they are calling, in polite terms, Stephen "The Smirk That Would Be King" Harper a cretin. They're kind of forced to, really. After all, anyone who can't figure out 34% < 50% < 50%+ has to be stupid, right? And unfit to govern, right? Right. It must be driving them mad.

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Friday, December 05, 2008

For all you folks not citizens of the Great White North, this is our current Big Story. We have, at the moment, a Prime Minister who is an incompetent Bush-wannabe (Sorry. I realize I'm being redundant, and that the terms are synonymous - "Bush", "incompetent", but...) and unfit to govern. He seems to have forgotten that less than 35% of Canadians actually want him to lead the country, that the remaining 65% wanted someone else, and insists that he has "the power". That he would use that term - "power" - rather than "privilege" - instantly demonstrates his lack of understanding of the democratic process. The power lies with the voters, the citizens of the country, not the person they elect. We give people the responsibility, the honour, the privilege of governing. We also have the power to revoke that privilege. Smirkin' Steve has proven that he doesn't deserve it.

The good thing in this story is Ms. Jean's actions. Much as I would love to see The Smirk booted back to the Lone Prairie from which he comes, where he'd be forced to indulge in daily rounds of self-flagellation, she's actually done the right thing. Her job (or the job of whoever is Governor General at any given time) is to act as a buffer, someone who will prevent extreme swings in the governance of the country, someone who will act in such a way as to allow time for reflection on the part of those who (supposedly) govern.

And then, come January, we can send Smirk packin', 'cause you can bet he won't learn a thing from what anyone with an ounce of intelligence would take as a huge self-inflicted humiliation.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Ever noticed how web-content providers are totally out of touch with the real world? For example, a year or so ago (?), Blogger decided to "improve" their site. Users were invited to migrate their blogs to the new format. O.K., I'm willing to try new things. Why not? Oh, well, maybe because when I did the entire title portion of this blog went totally out of alignment? With no way to fix it? At least, no way for me to fix it. Maybe if I were inclined to learn to code I could, but I have no interest in code. I've got enough to do, thanks. I've got an actual job, and this is just for fun. The old version worked fine, so why would I fight to make the "new, improved" version work?

Now Wordpress seems to have done the same thing. First they decided that a browser-based photo upload system was ever so "last century" and went to one that's Flash-based. The fact that it didn't work as well didn't seem to bother them. It was so much cooler to use Flash. Now they've totally redesigned their system and, guess what, it doesn't work. How swell is that?

There's a very "last millenium" saying folks might want to pick up on - "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Yep. Me, lost in the weeds.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Once upon a time, in a lab far, far, far away (in time, at least) I had a thesis supervisor who refused, despite five out of five of his graduate students using PCs, to buy a new PC for his lab. Nooooooooo - he spent, instead, $12,000.00 on a brand new Sun Sparc work station. Why? you ask? 'Cause some guy in astronomy told him they were the swellest. Which they may have been if you were doing astrophysics and had a year or two to spend learning to write your own code to actually get the thing to do anything. Want to print a document? Write the code. Want to write a document? Learn the code. About a year later, the thing had been well superceded and was worth less than a thousand bucks. So then he bought a Mac. Why? you ask? Because they never crash and they're immune to viruses. Well, this one, oddly enough, crashed with great regularity. More often, in fact, than the PCs his grad students owned.

As for viruses, well, his attitude was very weird for a parasitologist. Successful parasites go after the most common hosts. After all, they offer the greatest reproductive potential. Viruses, for the very few of you out there who don't know it, are parasites. Biological viruses and computer viruses. Were you a person inclined to come up with a virus program, which system would you aim it at? The one used by 1 in a million people, or the one used by the other 999,999? Those of you who answered for the former, well, reality's a bit much for you, right? And this bit of news from Apple must be wildly depressing. Whatever made you think that Macs were somehow immune? It's just that nobody could be bothered.

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Anybody curious as to just where George Clooney got his style? Rent a Cary Grant movie. The guy was a genius!