Wednesday, September 2, 2015

At the end of the day

San Jacinto Wildlife Reserve

Ken and I drove out to this refuge, east of March Air Force Base yesterday, to snap some bird pictures. Turned out it was opening day of dove season and not the optimum day to try to take pictures. Shotguns and birds aren't normally a good mix, at least for those of us whose shots don't literally kill.

Neither of us had been there before and the place is pretty cool.

I have a new lens and am trying to figure it out.

It is smarter than I am and I am frankly struggling a bit.

In addition I have dust on either my sensor or focussing screen and have to send it out to get cleaned. Driving me up a wall!

The refuge has a lot of different marsh lands and ponds. We saw hundreds of egrets, herons, ibis, shore birds, ducks and various raptors including a kestrel, a black shouldered kite and a ferruginous hawk. Normal red tailed circled overhead.

 I climbed up a pond wall and scared about a thousand ducks away.

Very pretty critters.

Black shouldered kite.

 I look forward to surmounting my technical issues and returning there soon!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Mean old world

American Seppuku

If the clerk in Kentucky is so adamant about not permitting gay marriages, she should now, post the negative supreme court ruling, do the honorable thing, resign and commit ritual suicide.

 I think if she is in on this one, she should be all in. If her faith is sufficient, that is.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Tell me why?

My back pages

I mentioned a while back that I had a missed phone call when I was photographing the waterfall back in New Mexico.

It was Abby, my first love from childhood. I called her back coming home on the long stretch through the desert. We hadn't spoken since, gosh, was it 1978 that her father died?

Mort was a famous actor and voice over specialist, a familiar cartoon voice, in fact the famous original trix rabbit.

His daughter was the first woman who ever saw anything redeeming in me, who loved me in a deep and special way, the first woman who ever lived with me.

How can I not still be grateful? We split apart when she went to school and I went overseas. Had a few issues. That was a very long time ago. New York City kids, she very upper east side, me the poor kid on scholarship from the lower east side. Lot of water over that bridge.

We gave each other the quick Cliff Notes synopsis of the preceding thirty seven years. Didn't talk for long. She is happily married now for many years, as am I. Had her ups and downs, who hasn't? Can't be wrong for me to want to wish her the very best, to appreciate her for once loving me?

She now has a kid, a grown kid, horrors, and she is also a Republican! How the hell did that happen? Beat some serious health issues of her own. We didn't talk for a long time but I did thank her sincerely. Our chapter is long over but does not need to be forgotten.

I have lots of friends who are still friends with their ex spouses and loves. The mature thing to do I suppose. I don't ever have to see my ex wife again and it will be hunkey dorey but there are several people in my life that I spent time with that I have nothing but wonderful feelings for and Abby is one of them.

I think it is nice to be able to circle around in our life and acknowledge the people who were once very important to you. Many people out there I will never stop loving.

Did I call Leslie immediately and tell her? Yes I did. But she is not the kind of person who is insecure about our fidelity or love for each other in the slightest. I am very lucky. Nice to hear from you Abby and I do wish you well.

Albatross - Peter Green


Friday, August 28, 2015

The Love You Save

I've been pushed around I've been  lost and found I've been given till sundown to get out of town

Last rant

We went to a cocktail party last night. New friends. A few people there also that I hadn't met before. Somehow talk got around to Obama and the Iran thing. One lady was talking about the virtues of the agreement. I mentioned that I wasn't so sure myself.

"Oh, so you want war?"

I basically kept my mouth shut and gritted my teeth. How do you answer something like that? Who the fuck wants war? I've been under rocket attack, feared for my life, three or five times already in my life. Who in the hell enjoys that?

But is the temporary absence of war synonymous with peace? What if the other guy is merely using the interim time to re-arm? What if he routinely threatens your annihilation? What if his past behavior positively shows that he is not to be trusted. Do you treat with him anyway?

On Monday, Philip Hammond, British Foreign Secretary, was in Tehran to re-open the British embassy there, and he suggested that the current Iranian government under President Hassan Rouhani has shown a more nuanced approach towards Israel than the leadership of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“What we’re looking for is behavior from Iran, not only towards Israel but towards other players in the region, that slowly rebuilds their sense that Iran is not a threat to them,” Hammond said.
On Tuesday he got his answer. A senior Iranian official on Tuesday called for Israel’s annihilation and rejected the claim by Hammond that Iran’s government has shown more nuance towards the Jewish state.
Our positions against the usurper Zionist regime have not changed at all; Israel should be annihilated and this is our ultimate slogan,” Hussein Sheikholeslam, a foreign affairs adviser to Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani, told reporters on Tuesday, the Fars News Agency reported.
Now John Kerry thinks this is just crazy talk, surely the Persians don't mean it. Stupid talk, Obama calls it.
They have a fundamental ideological confrontation with Israel at this particular moment (but) that doesn’t necessarily mean that translates into active steps."
John Kerry
Amin al Husseini, the Mufti meets Adolf Hitler
Now you can call members of the tribe touchy about such matters but the last guy who threatened extermination was way better at it than anyone ever thought he could be. So pardon us if we get a little punchy when people start talking like this, active steps or not. Shoot, I forgot, Natalie Portman says we can't bring up the holocaust anymore.

I think the deal stinks.

I think Obama caved.

I am pessimistic about the future of this deal and worried about the repercussions in the region.

If I am wrong, I will be happily wrong. We shall see what happens when the breakout period ends, that is if I am still around. People are in the habit of calling for Israel to forego its nuclear arsenal. Just how long do you think they would survive mid caliphate without it?

I think Obama was totally full of shit when he said not to worry about the Iranians not fulfilling their obligation to divulge their nuclear history because they won't be truthful anyway and we know that already and we know what they were doing anyway and we shouldn't expect anything more from them, it's unreasonable.

So out of the box your new negotiating partner is lying, obfuscating and playing games and we are supposed to feel good about our brave new world? Have faith that the wackjobs next door don't actually do what they say they are going to do?

But now the deal is pretty much done and Obama is trying to make nice with the mishpucha again and dangle a bunch of new hardware in front of the Israelis in hopes of shutting them up and not totally screwing things up for the next democrat running for office. But I have watched the guy quite carefully and he has been utterly contemptible with the Israelis since he has been office, not that they are angels mind you.

A few weeks ago he declassified a bunch of Israeli nuclear data that had been out of circulation since the Nixon era. That will show the bastards. State Department said it was a mere coincidence that the 1100 page report was released. Sure. This comes after several incidents in the last five years where the CIA released classified information on Israeli military operations to put a little heat on their friends.

And the Obama administration and the State Department were totally mum on Islamic Jihad firing missiles into Israel from Quneitra near the Golan Heights on Friday. Reports are that they were directed by our new pals in Iran.
An Israeli military source yesterday accused the Iranian Revolutionary Guard of being responsible for the orders to launch four rocket missiles from Syrian territories onto northern Israel.
The senior commander in the Israeli army said in a statement: “Saeed Izadi, the head of the Palestinian Division of the Iranian Al-Quds Force planned the rocket fire from the Syrian territories towards Upper Galilee and Golan Heights.”
He also added that “Izadi is the man in charge of smuggling weapons to Lebanon and Syria. He also instructed the Islamic Jihad fighters to execute the rocket fire operation.”
“The rocket fire is part of the Iranian policy aiming to escalate the security situation on the border and to turn the Israeli-Syrian borders into a battlefield,” added the military source.
Iran is already trying to turn up the heat. I don't know who Obama thinks this deal is actually helping? I guess the arms sellers will be happy, everybody is going to want to re-up with new arms. China, Russia and Iran will be happy. Who else? None of the neighbors are real happy. Obama's protestations of life long love for Israel notwithstanding, I don't believe a word he says and I don't trust him an inch. Isis is using gas on the kurds now and he does nothing, about what he did when the Syrians crossed his famous chlorine gas red line. The clumsiest, most inept negotiations imaginable.

A lot of this shit is of course, Bush's fault. If only we had a strongman like Saddam Hussein around to keep the order and restore the shia/sunni balance. Now we have shiites run amok and rather than talking about peace and diplomacy they are back to that goofy annihilation business.

So what are the arguments for a deal?

The sanctions couldn't hold much longer, we are only one of six nations and the international players had had enough.

This deal, vigorously monitored and enforced, will give the Iranian people, many of them quite young, the time to moderate and subordinate their beliefs to a more superior and civilized culture, our own.

Opponents have failed to present an alternative with a chance to be implemented.

The neocons and jews are warmongers who want Uncle Sam to do their dirty work for them and we are war weary in this country and it's not our battle.

What would Truman have done in such a time and situation? Lincoln? Washington? Teddy Roosevelt? Gary Cooper? You back your friends even if you are the last man standing. You don't base all your calculus on what is expedient, easiest and merely pragmatic and achievable, you also think about what is fair. What is right. What your previous commitments were. You do the right thing and you watch your friends back and certainly don't stab them when they aren't looking.

Excuse me for not drinking the kool aid on all the love that is in the air. Diplomacy is fine and dandy, if you don't sell out anyway and allow yourself to get punked. Maybe you are down with Iran taking its own soil samples at Parchin?

Once this whole thing got started Barack Obama was not going to be dissuaded and the gears were set in motion and our prior relationship with Israel, now long suffering, was toast. I am very worried about the long term effects of a deal in the the middle east when experts note that rather than transforming the Iranian regime, we are now funding it and cementing the position of the nefarious people currently in power. I know it's not hip, but I usually bet on the iron fist.

And the division amongst liberals and progressive  and jewish democrats is wider and more fractured than anyone can imagine and will be a very long time healing, if at all. I didn't leave the democratic party, they left me.

Obama's big money jewish friend from Chicago, Alan Solow, was belittling deal opponents for not being able to take a few body shots. I'd be happy to give you a body shot, Solow. Any time. In fact I think you are a mumzer. Because in New York we would kill you for one of those Chicago body shots, you fat prick.
It’s time for our community to mature. I have no quarrel whatsoever with Jewish individuals and organizations speaking out against the Iran deal if that is their position. If they do speak out against the deal, however, they should not hide behind manufactured accusations based on a false sense of victimhood. If you enter the ring, prepare to be hit and don’t complain that a blow to the body is below the belt. Solow the Magnificent
You've just shit on the only stalwart friends we have in the middle east Obama. Well, there's the Kurds and we did shit on them too. Israel gets a lot from the United States. No question. Zionists are pissing a lot of people off here.

Probably isn't worth it to the Israelis the way supposed friends behave these days but hey, got to be careful with that money spigot. Unless you can go it alone. And you may have to before this Obama thing is over.

Because the only thing Obama had a hard on worse for than an Iran deal is a Palestinian deal. So prepare to get fucked before the next election. Man's got a legacy to polish.

You'll make peace with the Palestinians if it kills you.

And it might.

The lady said that Bernie Sanders wasn't liberal enough for her. I think that Bernie is a swell guy and all but I shudder at the thought of him as president. We have not had a bipartisan coalition maker in office since Bill Clinton. That is what our country needs, someone that can get the participants in this horrible toxic marriage we call a republic talking again.

Bernie Sanders has dreams of creating a new Norway, declaring war on Wall St. and the banks and viva la revolucion. I don't think we are ready just yet for a civil war.

My host last night, who is M.O.T. but pretty agnostic on the whole matter told me that they should have just bought baja for the jews. Less trouble.

I don't care what Norman Lear, Noam Chomsky,  George Soros, Move On or Alan Solow or J Street thinks. Or even Al franken. My father was born in Israel. My grandfather is buried in Israel. I care what I think. I know what I know. We are about to make things much more difficult for Israel.

So the email came asking me not to support pro Israel traitors and diplomacy haters like Schumer. Like some Maoist's purge in the cultural revolution seeking ideologic purity. J-street only, the rest of you are officially off the bus. See you.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Excellent Birds

Pictures of Lily

 © Robert Sommers 2015
Ken invited me up to a Clickers and Flickers meeting in Burbank on Wednesday and we decided to make a day of it.

Clickers and Flickers is a photographic group that has been meeting in the Los Angeles area for over thirty years and draws its members from some of the world's most experienced in film and still. They put out a nifty magazine and bring in incredible photographers to lecture and display their work.

We were going to go to the Huntington but it is closed Monday and Tuesday so instead we decided to visit Descanso Gardens in La CaƱada. Maybe snap a few pictures.

Leslie and I had tried to visit the gardens for the Cherry Blossom festival a couple years back but it was so crowded we gave up.

The Gardens are a 150 acre spread now owned by the county of Los Angeles. Before that it was the estate of newspaper magnate E. Manchester Boddy, who once owned the Los Angeles Daily News.

And before that it was part of a Spanish land grant owned by Corporal Jose Maria Verdugo and prior to that the province of the local Tongva or Gabrielino indians.

Descanso Gardens is a neat place, very serene and not overdone. Wonder how many of its neighbors have ever even visited the place?

Ken amongst the encephalartos
There is an eighth scale working railroad on premises, a Japanese tea house, rose garden, California native plant garden, a new cycad collection and the original Boddy Home, furnished in the elegant Hollywood Regency style of the 1930's.

In April they received a large cycad collection from a major donor. I think I saw things that I don't remember seeing before although the exhibit was temporarily roped off and did not allow for closer inspection.

Boddy House, interior

Boddy was said to have between sixty and one hundred thousand camellias, which he bought from the Japanese being forced into internment camps. Many of these can now be seen at maturity along with purportedly thousands of rose bushes and many gorgeous native oaks.

We saw deer gently graze in the meadows, squirrels amble up trees. Just a delightful place to chill or have a picnic. Or even contemplate your life.

We drove up to the Castaways in Burbank and had a drink while we waited for the program. Great view of the valley below.

The program was fantastic. Jeff Widener, the amazing war and A.P. photographer who has taken so many iconic photographs, including the famous shot of the man in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square, put on a slide show of his photos. Phenomenal. I got a chance to spend some time with him and he is just an incredible guy and a riveting speaker. Was in the middle of so much scary stuff. You can visit his website here.

© Jeff Widener/A.P.
Nick Ut, the man who shot the amazing picture of the girl in Vietnam running down the street naked was also in attendance.  

© Nick Ut

It was such an honor for me to be among artists of this caliber. I finally paid my sheckels and joined the group the other night.

Nick, Jeff and Michelle

Before the meeting we decided to go to Samy's Camera and look around. I tried out the Sigma 150-600mm C lens I have been blathering about for the last six months.

They financed it for me.

It's mine. They made me a deal I couldn't refuse.

Here is the first shot I took with it last night. Really looking forward to making its acquaintance.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Butts Band

Balzac and the little Chinese seamstress

David Allen, who is now back from his self appointed three year exile to the Carolinas, lent me a book last month that I finally finished the other day. A delicious little read. It is called Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress and was written by the author Dai Sijie.

Written in 2000, it is Sijie's first effort. The book is the story of two young men sent to the country side for re-education during Mao's cultural revolution to atone for their parent's misdeeds.

I have always enjoyed Chinese fiction and this one definitely does not disappoint. Kind of book you hate to see end. Give it a read.

Two Bunch

It was my wife's birthday Sunday and we drove out to her favorite spot in the desert to soak in the warm mineral pools, Two Bunch Palms.

Two Bunch, of course, is Al Capone's old hang in Desert Hot Springs, the place where the boys from Chicago could cool out in the artesian springs when things were getting too hot back home.

Long a favorite of the Hollywood elite, it was the location for Robert Altman's movie The Player. Fancy cars continue to litter the parking lot and the beautiful people still come to kibitz and tryst. Place is so cool there is no sign at the main gate. A lovely oasis now ensconced in a sea of what can only charitably called "desert skank."

I was friends with the old architect and used to get deals there but the place went through a receivership and I'm not sure who owns it now and we currently pay retail.

In any case it still isn't that bad and the best thing is no kids, loud talking or cell phones.

We got a room about as far a walk from the pools as you could get. Our only mini bitch. Had a great time. Stayed out at the pool until one in the morning. Met some nice folks. Good place to people watch. Obeyed the signage.

Had a meal out saturday night that just about killed me. A dive called South of the Border. Should have left right away, the place stunk. Broke my rule. My steak smelled and tasted like old liver. Way too funky. Run, Will Robinson...

Saw a starlet type clinging like a remora to a comb forward sugar daddy. Met a nice girl from Texas, a friendly couple from Idyllwild, a bunch of nice Ukrainians. Great breakfast too, nice room. Highly recommended getaway if you like that sort of thing.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Duplicitous bastards

Pretty amazing story in the New York Times today, Palestinian Authority Is Ordered to Post $10 Million Bond in Terror Case. I will expound when I have time. Read it.

“An administration which claims to be fighting terror is planning to weigh in favor of the terrorists. If our government actually came in favor of convicted terrorists, it would be a really sorry statement about the way our government treats terror.”
Kent Yalowitz

The Obama administration sides with terrorists and against the interests and lives of its own citizens as well as a United States federal jury's decision. Anybody surprised?
In a widely watched terrorism lawsuit that drew the attention of the Obama administration, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled on Monday that the Palestinian Authority would have to post $10 million and an additional $1 million monthly to appeal a huge damages award for its role in six terrorist attacks in Israel that had killed and injured Americans.
The bond amount was much lower than lawyers for the victims had sought and matched the amount that lawyers for the Palestinian Authority said in court on Monday that the defendants could pay.
Just two weeks ago, the Obama administration weighed in on the case, expressing concern in a submission to the judge that requiring too high a bond could cause economic and political harm to the Palestinian Authority and the broader peace process.
The Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization in February were found liable in the attacks, which occurred between 2002 and 2004, after a lengthy civil trial brought under an antiterrorism law that provided for a tripling of the jury’s damages award of $218.5 million, for a total of $655.5 million.
The lawyer for the victims’ families, Mr. Yalowitz, originally asked that the Palestinian Authority be required to make payments of $30 million a month while pursuing an appeal, and on Monday he suggested that $20 million a month would be appropriate. Mr. Yalowitz said that the amount proposed by the defendants should “outrage” the court, given that the authority was still paying millions to convicted terrorists imprisoned in IsraelAnother of the families’ lawyers, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, in a statement from her office in Israel, said, “This is a very serious blow to the terror victims who spent 11 years litigating” the case.
Sbarro bombing aftermath 2001
To refresh your memory, you might want to visit this link. The evidence presented in court included handwritten notes from PA chairman Yasir Arafat personally approving payments to the terrorists who carried out the attacks.
The Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization were found liable on Monday by a jury in Manhattan for their role in knowingly supporting six terrorist attacks in Israel between 2002 and 2004 in which Americans were killed and injured.
The damages are to be $655.5 million, under a special terrorism law that provides for tripling the $218.5 million awarded by the jury in Federal District Court.The verdict came in the seventh week of a civil trial during which the jury heard emotional testimony from survivors of suicide bombings and other attacks in Jerusalem, in which a total of 33 people were killed and more than 450 were injured.The plaintiffs also included the estates of four victims who had been killed in the attacks, which occurred on the street and at a crowded bus stop, inside a bus, and in a cafeteria on the campus of Hebrew University.
It was a terrible thing to see,” one plaintiff, Robert Coulter Sr., 78, testified as he described watching a news report about the cafeteria bombing and realizing his 36-year-old daughter, a New Yorker on a business trip, was one of the victims.

“They brought a body bag out on the TV station, right on it, and went right down to where she was laying and I knew it was a girl, had blond hair,” Mr. Coulter recalled. “I said, ‘Oh, my goodness, that’s Janis.’ ”
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the P.L.O.’s executive committee who testified for the defense, told the jury, “We tried to prevent violence from all sides.”
But citing testimony, payroll records and other documents, the plaintiffs showed that many of those involved in the planning and carrying out of the attacks had been employees of the Palestinian Authority, and that the authority had paid salaries to terrorists imprisoned in Israel and had made martyr payments to the families of suicide bombers.
Palestinians plan to appeal the jury decision and ruling.
Upholding the verdict Monday, U.S. District Judge George Daniels rejected complaints from the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Palestinian Authority that the trial inappropriately excluded evidence about the political and social context of the attacks.The case is "not about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," Daniels said from the bench.
This kind of behavior is far too common with this administration, we apparently live in a time of great moral relativism, where the slider of what constitutes right and wrong is seemingly built on shifting sands. We aren't going to look at the past record of the Iranians because that was ten years ago and ancient history, everybody knows they lied, right. Ditto the Palestinians and Maalot, Munich, Achile Lauro, Merkaz Yeshiva and many more similar incidents.

Forget red lines and promises, it's a brave new world, everything now is about expedition and capitulation. This case is an outrage but I guess I shouldn't be surprised at this point.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Random shots

Dancers, Kenya

Presidio with razor wire

man in front of my store

Mt. Palomar Dome