© Robert Sommers 2016

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

fire over camp pendleton; from fallbrook airport

Little girl blue

Three Pictures

A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know. 
Diane Arbus

John Mayall & Freddie Robinson - Country Road

Egret color study


Bouncing around the room

Ethan Dean
Boy gets wish, becomes garbage man for a day. Awesome story, cool kid.

Great commercial, thanks Bill for sending. These Volkswagens are certainly tough.

If you are going to get pissed off at your partner and get out of the car, please don't do it at a safari park. You don't want to die mad.

These puritanical Bernie supporters are such boobs. Definitely doing the Donald a favor. Vote for Jill Stein, you idiots and then when you get the next Trump appointed Clarence Thomas overturning Roe V. Wade you can feel like you contributed.

Don't let the perfect interfere with the good.

Bernie supporters are like petulant babies, pouting because they can't have everything they want.

John Kerry did himself no favors when he recently said that the threat of climate change was just as bad as ISIS.

While that may in fact be true, this administration continually falls all over itself diminishing the magnitude of the threats of the islamic "jv" team. It looks to many like they are in fact covering for them.

Because the liberal conceit is that every culture is equally fantastic (except of course for the nazis in Tel Aviv) and that the few stragglers can be loved to death with some of Loretta Lynch's home cooking.

We couldn't be engaged in a struggle with a theology and culture that has sworn to destroy us, could we?

Siamak Namazi
And it looks like our buddies the Iranians have been playing a nice double game and harboring Al Qaeda.

Iran also recently arrested an Iranian American who was in fact a U.S. citizen who decided to visit relatives in the old country. Not the first time this has happened. Bad move.

Iran says if you have Iranian blood than you are an Iranian. And they don't respect a a lot of rights we take for granted, like right to change your religion and the right of free thought.

Poor guy. Not like Obama will do much to muddy the waters at this stage of the game.

And things aren't much better in Pakistan. Read this one.

I hope that Madame Hillary continues to have no qualms in calling islamic terrorism by its rightful name.

If Vladimir, Donald's bro-pal in Moscow, is actually responsible for pipelining DNC communications to the media in order to influence the election, it is a treasonous and nasty bit of news. What kind of quid pro quo will he demand if Trump gets elected? Although Obama pretty much signaled that he would look the other way too if Moscow decided it wanted the Ukraine back.

Peter Theil tells the world how proud he is to be gay at the GOP convention. Like me going to a KKK meeting and talking about my bar mitzvah.

You know who was really responsible for the Nice and Munich attacks? Well ex Georgia Democratic Congresswoman and Green Party member Cynthia McKinney does. Guess?

Funny that Obama was apoplectic about Netanyahu accepting an invitation to address Congress. Because according to a bipartisan Senate report, it turns out that at the same time we were spending big money in Israel to throw Netanyahu out of office through the NGO One Voice. Hypocrisy is a funny thing.
“The subcommittee found no evidence that OneVoice spent grant funds to influence the 2015 Israeli elections,” the report concludes. “Soon after the grant period ended, however, OneVoice used the campaign infrastructure and resources built, in part, with State Department grant funds to support V15.”
The Senate report also says the State Department “failed to take any steps to guard against the risk that OneVoice could engage in political activities using State-funded grassroots campaign infrastructure after the grant period.”

Finally I don't want to be that old guy always bitching about the wussified millennials so I offer the following study without editorial comment. Weak hands, weak minds, millennials losing grip.

and speaking of losing your grip...

Monday, July 25, 2016


Leslie brought home a pair of beautiful young kittens the other day. A brother and sister, with strong wild cat markings. Very nice cats, they made themselves right at home on my couch. We haven't been outside yet but soon. Names too. Didn't feel quite complete without a cat in our home so things are now moving back to the natural order.

Dos gardenias para ti

Desert Solitaire

Musselman Arch, Canyonlands © Robert Sommers 2016
"I fixed myself another drink, returned to the table in the backyard and sat down to await the rising of the moon.

My  thoughts were on the road and the crowds that would pour upon it as inevitably as water under pressure follows every channel which is opened to it.

Man is a gregarious animal, we are told, a social being. Does that mean that he is also a herd animal? I don't believe it, despite the character of modern life. The herd is for ungulates, not for men and women and their children. 

Are men no better than sheep or cattle, that they must live always in view of one another in order to feel a sense of safety? I can't believe it.

We are preoccupied with time. If we could learn to love space as deeply as we are now obsessed with time, we might discover a new meaning in the phrase to live like men.

At what distance should good neighbors build their houses? Let it be determined by the communities mode of travel: if by foot, four miles; if by horseback, eight miles; if by motorcar, twenty-four miles; if by airplane, ninety six miles.

Recall the Proverb: "Set not thy foot too often in thy neighbor's house, lest he grow weary of thee and hate thee.""

Desert Solitaire, a season in the wilderness pg. 58
Edward Abbey

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Foggy Notion

One way ticket, man

Road from the shore, 1936 - Benton Spruance

I was having coffee with the fellas when I saw the blinking colored lights in front of my shop this morning. One, two, three, four, five cop cars showed up, all parked akimbo on the street like random pickup sticks. Interested in the commotion, I walked over and asked a cop what was up?, after a quick glance confirming the still inviolate state of our shops.

The sheriff said that a guy was trying to break into a car. Said the voices told him to. Neighbor watched it going down and called 911. The distinct impression I got was meth.

I told the other shopkeepers the story when they came to work and it turns out it is not the first time for this guy. Someone caught him in a friend's car. The story was the same; he was directed to, by some outside presence, an entity whose identity is not really clearly defined.

This kind of story gives me the willies. Call me old fashioned but I would rather we had a guy steal because he was hungry than from a guy with a cauterized neural network that is receiving cryptic messages from mission control. Because how will we know when our Manchurian candidate finally gets the long awaited kill command?

Meth and opiate users are a sad, forsaken bunch, Marooned on a very cold and inhospitable planet, in a dark tunnel of pure self interest, not sure if any of them ever truly make it back.

In other news I hear that strange black helicopters are flying over Santa Margarita.


Leslie wanted to know if I wanted to go see Phish tonight in Chula Vista. I said sure and then asked about the price of tickets. Ninety five bucks a ticket she tells me. I quickly did a cost benefit analysis calculation and in the end decided not to.

Good band but I'm not sure I would have two hundred bucks worth of fun. Couldn't handle the guilt if I didn't.

I saw my first rock concert in Texas in 1966, believe it was the 13th Floor Elevators. Canned Heat in New York soon to follow. Probably cost two bucks a ticket. Went to plenty of great shows in the 1970's for well under ten bucks, including my all time favorite, Jethro Tull's Thick as a brick.

You could see the freaking Doors for two bucks.

So I am going to spend two hundred bucks a seat to sit on uncomfortable chairs at Humphrey's and listen to Steely Dan?

I think not. Great band but no way.

I believe that the price of a ticket for one of my all time fave shows, Rolling Stones - Mick's Birthday, MSG, 1972 was $5.50. Stevie Wonder sat in admirably on drums.

Not sure what drove ticket prices up so high but things are really out of hand. I did pay four hundred smackers to see Bowie once but it was at a period in my life when I had more money than sense.

I think that the culprit is the continuing digitalization of the world. Musicians can no longer sell records because it is easier for people to steal music so artists are forced to charge exorbitant prices for concerts.

Same process if of course affecting my business, the art business. If I had a dime for every time someone has told me that they won't buy original art, since it is so easy to score a perfect reproduction and who would know the difference?

Got burned recently myself at an estate sale in La Jolla run by a lady named MacDonald. Bought a perfect Munakata fake. Signature looked great under a loop. I wasn't the only one. Steve bought several, was nailed for a lot of money and I think Don got burned too.

MacDonald wouldn't make it right, said we all should have known. Stopped returning phone calls. I think she had a duty to tell us she was selling fakes. I won't make that mistake again.

Yucca farm, Gavilan Mountain

Friday, July 22, 2016

Grateful Dead - Workingman's Blues 12-1-73

The Dead only played this Merle Haggard song publicly one time, at the Boston Music Hall. I was there, believe it was a three day run, with Paul Shore, Hank Meer, and Richie Patrick, but alas, never got to hear it. They played the tasty jam during the afternoon sound check and never again.

Frisbee action at the shows was fierce in 73. I dropped a disk off my fingertips from the upper balcony at this one, to a collective groan from the audience. My first big failure on the grand stage...


Mail Call


Heading West

Last night I thought I would take my new neutral density filter to the Oceanside Pier to get some sunset shots. Things didn't quite work out, there was no parking anywhere on account of a street fair on Tremont. Since I was on the coast, I called a buddy Gary, one of my greatest allies and friends, and offered to buy him a steak dinner. He was ready to get a taco somewhere else but readily assented and drove over to meet me.

Gary and I have made each other some good money over the years. Very hard to function in my business without relying on people that you can trust. I can trust him.

So we headed over to West Steakhouse in Carlsbad, not the Bistro, the fancy one. The place is pricey, but top notch. Staff is excellent, food is excellent, wouldn't want to spend a lot of time picking the meal apart.

We both ordered absolute greyhounds, his of the salted dog variety. I ordered a cowboy bone in rib chop medium rare with two sauces, bernaise and a peppercorn reduction I think. You pay extra for the sauces at West. Perfectly cooked brussel sprouts and truffle potatoes.

Gary asked them if they had any of that fine Kobe Wagyu beef that he remembered from a previous visit? The kind that gets regular massages and spa treatments before it makes the ultimate sacrifice? The server said that they in fact did but that the culinary extravagance was not listed on the regular menu.

It was at that point that I interjected. "You know I told my friend that I was buying and that he could order anything he wanted so mind you this question is purely academic, but just how much is that overcoddled cut of beef?"

"Ninety five dollars."

If I winced I think it was only a passing moment of pain. I don't think I did. I didn't have a second thought in any case, as I said Gary has been very good to me. Now my own steak was certainly not cheap but I have never paid close to a c note for a steak, even at the foofy places in Vegas.

He loved it. Turns out that the cow in question was not only regularly massaged, the massages usually had a happy ending and it was then finally dispatched while at the height of full coital rapture. The richly marbled steak was literally coursing with happy dopamines.

My friend was happy, I was happy, the cow was apparently happy, a very happy meal.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

down the mountain

The "Oh Shit" factor

A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Asimov's three laws of robotics

This morning I was ruminating about the guy who was killed watching the Harry Potter movie in his Tesla while operating the car in full autonomous mode.

I myself don't even like cruise control, I like to be in full control and maintain as much awareness as I can at all times in my vehicle. Full auto pilot would certainly be a leap of faith for me.

I used to think that the toughest thing to teach a robot or artificial intelligence would be humor, an essentially human element which is said to spring from pain on some level.

Not sure how many jokesters there are in the animal kingdom, probably even less among the machine set.

And while that may be so, I think it would be equally difficult to plug in the human emotion of fear.

According to Tesla’s account of the crash, the car’s sensor system, against a bright spring sky, failed to distinguish a large white 18-wheel truck and trailer crossing the highway.

Tesla said the self-driving car attempted to drive full speed under the trailer “with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S." Probably didn't slow down a smidge.

I am sure that the self driving vehicle went merrily to its doom, the self preservation gene not yet wired into its resistor or component package. Tremendous motivator, fear.

My favorite writer, the late Roger Zelazny, saw this phenomenon coming years ago. He wrote two short stories that I can think of off the top of my head that dealt with the issue, Last of the Wild Ones and My lady of the diodes. You can find them both in the compendium Unicorn Variations.

In the first Zelazny deals with a renegade car, a female with a strong taste for revenge. She morphs into a computer in the latter story. Shared another human attribute that is apparently also a favorite of our robot brethren, betrayal. When the AI starts developing a bitchy mean streak, all bets are off.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

99 Years And One Dark Day

Decker and Skinner and the Blue Ridge Cut Ups perform the old Jesse Fuller prison song.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

When I First Came To This Land

That big sinking feeling.

The New York Times has a rather emphatic editorial today, The most extreme Republican platform in memory. It bears reading.
...It is as though, rather than trying to reconcile Mr. Trump’s heretical views with conservative orthodoxy, the writers of the platform simply opted to go with the most extreme version of every position. Tailored to Mr. Trump’s impulsive bluster, this document lays bare just how much the G.O.P. is driven by a regressive, extremist inner core.
Mr. Trump’s anti-Muslim phobia and fantasy wall across the Mexican border are front and center, along with his protectionist views, which deny long-held positions of the party. No less alarming is a raft of planks that ideologues pushed through to banish any notion of moderation and present-day reality from the party’s credo.
This majority has triumphed in securing retrograde positions that include making no exceptions for rape or women’s health in cases of abortion; requiring the Bible to be taught in public high schools; selling coal as a “clean” energy source; demanding a return of federal lands to the states; insisting that legislators use religion as a guide in lawmaking; appointing “family values” judges; barring female soldiers from combat; and rejecting the need for stronger gun controls — despite the mass shootings afflicting the nation every week.
The platform also makes homophobia and the denial of basic civil rights to gays, lesbians and transgender people a centerpiece. It repudiates same-sex marriage, despite strong support for this constitutional right in the nation at large. The party invokes “natural marriage” and states’ rights for determining which bathrooms transgender people may use, and it defends merchants who would deny service to gay customers.
I would rather not wade into the fetid swamp of personality politics, I prefer to talk about the issues that concern me. The GOP platform is anathema to my core beliefs in almost every instance.

© Robert Sommers 2016
Things are evidently so bad that even George Will is sounding objective and clear about the foolhardiness of the GOP position and his fear of a Trump at the helm. This editorial started running nationally on Sunday, GOP minds are at sea — but not the right one.
This week, the Republican Party will formalize its judgment that the Navy, the nuclear launch codes and other important things should be placed in the hands of someone not known for nuance, patience or interest in allies and collective security.
Americans, dismayed by two consecutive commanders in chief — the recklessness of one and the inconstancy of his successor — must now decide whether, and if so how and by whom, they want U.S. power to be projected.
In the South China Sea, says Secretary Carter, America must steel itself for "a long campaign of firmness, and gentle but strong pushback." This will require freedom of navigation assertions, involving naval and air operations that challenge, among other things, China's expansive claims to sovereignty over islands and waters far from its mainland.
If the next president does not conduct such operations with steady, measured skill, the result could be the collapse of America's position in the world's most populous, dynamic and perhaps dangerous region, or war. Is any of this on anyone's mind in Cleveland?
If you are the Republican standard bearer and your positions are so whacked out that George Will feels the need to call you out publicly, and Alex Jones becomes one of your convention spokesmen, when your only hope of victory is stoking the fires of the race war and engaging poorly educated and somewhat angry white people, I would say that your party is in serious trouble.

The Lou Holtz endorsement is priceless. Vote for Trump because the man runs an awfully nice golf course and will do his best to keep the dreaded game of soccer away from America.
Become us” and learn English, Holtz reportedly urged recent arrivals to the U.S.
I don’t want to become you,” he said, as quoted by the Daily Beast. “I don’t want to speak your language, I don’t want to celebrate your holidays, I sure as hell don’t want to cheer for your soccer team!”
Holtz endorsed Trump ahead of the Indiana primary in May, but made no mention of the GOP candidate’s comments on immigrants when doing so. Instead, he applauded the “first class” quality of Trump’s properties.
“There are nothing but winners in Indiana,” he said in a Twitter video announcing his support. “The main reason I’m endorsing him: I played on his golf course, I stayed in his hotel. He does nothing but go first class in everything. He wants this country to be first class as well.”
I may not exactly be a history whiz but if my memory doesn't fail, the first language spoken in the Americas that was not a native american dialect was not English but in fact Spanish.

1973 Sekine SHC - 276

My friend Wild Bill has just completed a wonderful restoration of a vintage Japanese road bike.

It was fairly thrashed when he got it, note the upright handlebars in the pics below, like my old red Schwinn english racer.

The manufacturer was named Sekine and they were once quite popular in Canada.

Originally a five speed, the 276 featured no front derailleur. Bill converted this one into a one speed and lost the fancy name plate on the rear wheel.

Sekine was an outfit that got its start in Japan, but in an effort to avoid high tariffs, partnered with Canadian and First Family companies, relocated to Canada in 1973. They were known for using quality components and with the exception of rims, parts were made out of alloys.

Bill is an artist and he did a fantastic job, which he does pretty much on everything he touches. Powder coated it, spiffed it from top to bottom.

Bill is an avid rider and I think he will be putting some miles on this one.

Little Bob and the Lollipops


Lily, Descanso Gardens

Most deluded fools who consider themselves artists, a class I occasionally inhabit, fall victim to the same failing, which is principally an inability to self edit.

Red fox in sunlight, Yellowstone

You see, we fall victim to a siren's call which tickles our narcissistic funny bone and cries out to us the deluded message that everything we do is, well, good. Which it simply, isn't.

Soul surfer, Swamis

I had an art teacher in college who could sense this sort of excessive self love for our pet artistic creations a mile away. Jim Hulbert would say "Fine, it's okay, draw me 200 alternative thumbnails by tomorrow morning." This was a major pain in the ass and also a lifelong lesson which taught me not to fall too deeply in love with my own output.

Snake River Overlook

Having said that, with well over 100k images currently on my hard drive, you miss stuff sometimes that was decent on your first or second cull. The truth is that I have not ever looked at a significant percentage of my photographs.

fungus, San Juan Island

My brother had a cardiac incident of some kind after his kidney transplant last night. I think he is okay but I don't have a lot of information. I will be worthless today.

Sandhill Cranes, Bosque

So I decided to look back at some of the wonderful photographic opportunities of the last twelve months and look around for something I may have missed.

The question is, it it safe to trust your first instinct? Is anything of the second or third gleaning up to the level of the first? Maybe, sometimes it is better, sometimes worse. Depends if the editor was conscious in the first place, I suppose.

In any case, think good thoughts for Buzz and hopefully enjoy some of the photographs of the last year. None of these have been ever processed before, although you may have seen their siblings.

Oncoming, Seligman

The waterfall was taken at Jemez Falls on a road trip with Steve Saylor last year.

Never looked at it until this morning.

Never noticed the woman of the pool before.

I am thankful for having the opportunity to take and share pictures from so many wonderful places this year.

Tree, La Jolla

Monday, July 18, 2016


Thinking good thoughts

My brother Buzz just called to tell me that he is getting a new kidney today. I am so happy for him, he has waited so long! Buzz lives in Toronto. He has suffered from a pernicious kidney disease called FSGS for many years and has been on the transplant list for a very long time. I am so grateful that he is getting a new organ. Please wish him well!

Light sculptor

Leslie and I had the pleasure of dinner at the mountain top Fallbrook home of Michael and D.N. Evans on Saturday.

Michael is a visionary artist, his wife D.N., a world class couturier, whose establishment in Laguna Beach was known far and wide.

She has dressed a major celebrity clientele in her time.

Michael is a brilliant sculptor and painter and once designed geodesic space toys for the Smithsonian. A veteran and Chicago native, you can check out his amazing work at michealrevans dot com.

The setting and table was right out of Sunset Magazine. He is not only a talented artist he is also a very fine chef. Michael's light sculptures adorned the patio and we had a beautiful view of acres of avocado trees and succulents, with the Pacific Ocean shining to our west.

However the real fun starts after dark, when Michael fires up the smoke and lasers and starts sending beams of light through the crystal sculptures.

Positively lysergic.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Walls of Fire

This is a tiff file, I accidentally shot 8 bit tiff for a day. Still an awfully big file. But it doesn't look great on the computer screen after export. The walls to your right are simply on fire with color and light when seen natively. Stupid Tiff.

The original happens to look incredible and will make an amazing print I think at full resolution. Keeping my fingers crossed. Haven't been printing lately but I think I have a few cool candidates.

Got confirmation on Italy the day before yesterday. Yippee!

Koko Taylor - I Got What It Takes


Friday, July 15, 2016

Livestock waterer, Green River

I kind of like this, was trying over and over to fiddle with it but it just wanted to be left alone. This shot is untouched, straight out of the can. Kind of reminds me of that stuff we used to shoot called film, this is what you got, grainy, weird exposure, lack of color. Before we could break it down to the minute pixel and recreate everything in post production and all that.

You saw it and you clicked and you got stuff that sort of looked like this. Shapes and value.