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Nature Mort © Robert Sommers 2017

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Iggy Pop - Bang Bang

Citrus labels at the library

I am seriously asking for help. I am on the art committee for the new Fallbrook Library. We had a couple of show cancellations for our regular art exhibition and I am trying to curate a show of antique citrus labels on the fly, a show supposed to open in two weeks. Seems a natural for Fallbrook. A gentleman in town has offered the best of his fine collection but I need about $600 $950.00 to properly frame the show. I have received about $325 $645.00 $805.00 $905.00 so far from two three large and a couple of  many smaller contributions. Halfway there. Thank you all who have given. If you can help with even $10.00 it would be appreciated. Hell, even five. Please mail the donations to the gallery. Blue Heron Gallery - 113 N. Main Ave. Fallbrook, CA 92028. Or paypal at azurebirdsatgmaildotcom. Thanks for your help, friends.

***

I would like to thank the following individuals for their generous donations. Almost there!

Brett Stokes
Doug Diener and Retha Evans
Vince Ross
Deborah Haydis - Ameriprise Financial
Ken Seals
Dixon and Connie Fish
Bill and Sandy LeMasters
Dr. Neil Treister
Allen Seymour
Ron and Marlo Miller
Frank and Jerri Patchett
Banar Designs
Ken Rexrode
Peter Wedll and The Artery
Kathleen Morgan
Kathy Witkoff
David Allen
Rainbow Valley Organics

Uncle cries uncle

My Uncle Norm, fairly frequent contributor to these comment pages, has sent me a letter telling me that he is through discussing genealogy with me. My incessant quest has apparently brought him to the snapping point. My octogenarian uncle would prefer to spend the time with his real passion, tanning the most intimate portions of his body with other like minded peers who share his proclivity for sun clubbing. Bravo to Uncle Norm. Sorry to have burned you out.

I found my whole genealogy file, once thought lost, assembled 16 years ago after  much painstaking research and realize that I have pretty much duplicated the effort and improved it in two short weeks, thanks to the power of the internet in this new age of ours. With the exception of the LDS warehouses of microfilm and the municipal archives in Poland, all the information is just, right there. Thank you Tracy.

***


I judged the Fallbrook Car Show once again on Sunday. Thought that it would get rained out and I slept in, but got the call that the thing was still on and managed to slide out of bed. It turned out to be a beautiful day, anyway.

First I judged the vintage European class, lots of nice Jags and Citroens. There was a lovely silver Mercedes gullwing and a real nice red Shelby Cobra, and a lot of other stuff. It's weird to me to have classes with Mark 5's and XJS's in the same class. I will take the Mark 5 thanks.

Anyway, I never had a big affinity for muscle cars but there were a lot of them at the show. 70's is in, god help us. Cool Subaru Sambar. Don't think I have ever seen one before.



I judged the vintage with Jim Swan and the woodies with my buddy Pete, who sells Nova parts for a living as well as surfboards and really knows his shit. Woodie people are a lot of fun. Head judge is a woodie guy and said that we were pretty spot on.

Skipping breakfast on the run, I made the acquaintance of the bacon wrapped hot dog at the event, quite good really. Even though it lacked kraut.





Speaking of hot dogs, the hot dog of my youth, has come to the west coast. As a kid, I survived on the Papaya King hot dogs from 86th street. Yorktown. I went to high school at 85th and Lex at Dwight York and then at Walden on 88th and Central Park West. Ate a lot of dogs.

Papaya King's motto was better than filet mignon. And they were. A nice snap, a nice smell, served one of two ways, with or without kraut. The right way. Hot mustard. Choice of fresh squeezed drink, I favored the orange juice. None of that sissy chicago stuff with a salad on a bun. No celery salt or cucumbers, thank you.

I rhapsodized about these dogs for years. My wife is from detroit, home of the coney dog. When I finally drug my wife in there about 15 years ago, she said, "You brought me here for this?" The dogs were actual pitiful, shriveled up wieners laying forlorn in their soggy buns. Not nearly as good. I guess you can't go home again. But I will try the new Papaya King in Hollywood, if only for nostalgia.

***

Speaking of New York, I read yesterday that a new law has been passed banning the making of music at Bethesda Fountain. This is sacrilege. I spent many a day at the fountain listening to the world's greatest rhythm section in my misspent youth. Unless you had the audacity to flip the beat. Big Mike from Gig Harbor reads the blog and once told me a story of watching a guy get stabbed who flubbed the beat. That will keep you in time.

***

We ended the evening dining with the Smiths at their palatial digs in the hinterlands. Simple and perfect. Tri-tip, asparagus, multiple mushrooms. A nice Cab and a cool pinot grigio. Leslie brought a fruit and dressed a green salad. All was faboo. Everybody was very chill.

Their dogs resemble ewoks, I think that they are all in on some weird alien breeding program.

California ranch living at its finest. Thanks for the lovely afternoon.

***




Sunday, May 29, 2011

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Saturday Mixed Bag of Birds

Stan sent me this cool space link, Spaceflight Now. It seems to be a bit slow today but it was pretty happening yesterday. You might want to check it out if space is your thing. Whip up a little tang.

***

Strange how people sort of come to you in bunches. I had an interesting artist come by who has Aspergers Syndrome. His societal skills were so bad that he created a new identity with a fake name to shield himself from talking to people. He prefers to work for other people so that he doesn't have to interact with clients because he has such a difficult time looking people in the eye.

He told me about a book published locally, Quirky yes, hopeless no, that has really helped him deal with his unique personality traits. He said that he gets the most satisfaction out of racing motorcycles in the desert, the combination of speed and terror zapping his being into a one pointed focus that drives the disorder into the background.

He said that he has a hard time empathizing with other people, tending to respond in a rather cold and clinical fashion.

I got a letter the other day from my other friend with Aspergers, thanking me for taking the time to learn about the whole deal. He sent a point by point checklist that is probably too personal to publish on this blog.

I wonder if there is a reason that all of these people are taking this moment to come into my life?

***

I am putting together an exhibition of orange and fruit labels for my next library show. If you have any interesting examples, framed, that I could borrow for six months please contact me.

***

Tomorrow is the Antique Car Show at Potter Junior High School. I will be one of the judges. If you aren't doing anything drop by and say hello. There are always a whole bunch of beautiful entries.

***

These two juvenile hawks have little fear of me. I walked right up this morning and got this one perched on the branch, maintaining eye contact. Such beautiful plumage.

***

David sent over this picture of his toucanet, who likes to take a regular bath in the water dish. David gave him up to a large breeder and toucan authority yesterday and I think is already missing him terribly.

***

Ron and Lena sent over this clip of a friendly owl and a pussycat.  And a very interesting clip on leadership. Have a memorable memorial weekend!





Double Plus Good



"How would you say freedom is slavery when the word freedom no longer exists?"

Welcome to the machine



“The fact is that anyone can read the plain text of the Patriot Act, and yet many members of Congress have no idea how the law is being secretly interpreted by the executive branch, because that interpretation is classified.
“It’s almost as if there were two Patriot Acts, and many members of Congress have not read the one that matters.
“Our constituents, of course, are totally in the dark. Members of the public have no access to the secret legal interpretations, so they have no idea what their government believes the law actually means.”
— Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, in a Senate floor speech Thursday

One of the biggest disappointments of the Obama Administration has been the continuation of Bush era policies that have the potential to further erode privacy and civil liberties in this country. This week Oregon Senator Ron Wyden and New Mexico Senator Mark Udall raised the alarm about the recent extension of the Patriot Act and hinted that Obama's Justice Department might have even eclipsed the past administration at its increased snooping and cavalier disregard for certain rights we have long held dear in this country.

“When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they are going to be stunned and they are going to be angry.” Senator Ron Wyden

Because the Patriot Act was shrouded in so much secrecy that Americans don't even know what it entails, it is hard to speculate about the scope of the governmental surveillance that is raising the Senator's concern. Even our Senators and Congressmen are not allowed to know what the government's interpretation is, except for the members of one small select committee. But it seems to revolve around Section 215. This section allows investigators to "seize any "tangible things" they deem to be relevant to an investigation. They are not required to provide evidence demonstrating probable cause, as would be the case for a conventional search warrant. Tangible things can entail anything from phone records to hospital records, and can belong to third parties rather than terrorism suspects themselves."

According to Julian Sanchez at the Cato Institute, the Justice Department employs a legal argument known as the "hybrid theory" that opens access to "pen registers," or data that allows investigators to roughly monitor someone's physical location through their cell phone. This ability to track a person's location, fused with the ability to obtain huge amounts of private records, could allow the government to know where many different people are at a given moment. It is possible that the use of the hybrid theory has allowed the government to spy on a broad swath of the American public, with no connection to terrorism, through use of "data mining" technology.

Some assert that the secret interpretation empowers the government to deploy ”dragnets” for massive amounts of information on private citizens; the government portrays its data-collection efforts much differently.

Surveillance under the business-records provisions has recently spiked. The Justice Department’s official disclosure on its use of the Patriot Act, delivered to Congress in April, reported that the government asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for approval to collect business records 96 times in 2010 — up from just 21 requests the year before. The court didn’t reject a single request. But it “modified” those requests 43 times, indicating to some Patriot-watchers that a broadening of the provision is underway.

“We’re getting to a gap between what the public thinks the law says and what the American government secretly thinks the law says,” Wyden told Wired's Danger Room in an interview in his Senate office. “When you’ve got that kind of a gap, you’re going to have a problem on your hands.”

Wyden offered an amendment that would compel the Attorney General to “publicly disclose the United States Government’s official interpretation of the USA Patriot Act.” It refers to “intelligence-collection authorities” embedded in the Patriot Act that the administration briefed the Senate about in February.

Udall warned about the government’s “unfettered” access to bulk citizen data, like “a cellphone company’s phone records.” In a Senate floor speech on Tuesday, Udall urged Congress to restrict the Patriot Act’s business-records seizures to “terrorism investigations” — something the counterterrorism measure has never required in its nearly 10-year existence.

The government thinks that it is much ado about nothing. Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman, said that Congressional oversight committees and a special panel of national security judges — known as the FISA Court — were aware of how the executive branch was interpreting and using surveillance laws.

“These authorities are also subject to extensive oversight from the FISA Court, from Congress, from the executive branch,” Mr. Boyd said.

***

I worry about this law and I worry about this government. Creating an indeterminate war against an indeterminate enemy for an indeterminate period that allows to the suspension of rights to privacy, fair process and court ordered warrants seems like a fast track to a Kafkaesque police state. With the new DARPA style data mining technology, the government can not only monitor your communications but know your geo-location, friends you are associating with and brand of aftershave. What once was an emergency bill designed to ferret out terrorism is now an excuse for a wholesale spying operation on the American public.

Of course the standard response for many of my fellow citizens is "I have nothing to hide, let them look." And guess what my fellow citizens, they will.

***

Friday, May 27, 2011

Heifetz, Rubinstein and Piatigorski

eagle flies

It's been a tough week and a bitch of a month. My big deal canceled and then things started cascading down. Business is a mirage. Lost my voice about ten days ago. I'm air breathing at night like a carp on the sidewalk. So as not to fully wallow I have thrown myself madly back into my genealogy research. My uncle says this is a crazy pattern with me, every few years. But the genetics information, especially the autosomal stuff, has opened up all sorts of new doors and passageways. Should I spring for deep clade, or M-34 maybe?

I found a folder from my last big research push that has been missing since 1995. I searched and searched and thought that it had been accidentally thrown away. I swear that I looked in the drawer that it was in a dozen times. Lots of work that I thought was gone forever.

I found that some of my relatives acted very strangely when I first got interested in family history. "Why do you want to know? Let things lie...they cautioned me." There was plenty of sordid history in the family, a murder, an escape, a grandfather who trafficked in morphine across europe for his addicted mother, but I guess every family has its issues now, doesn't it?

Since I found the link with Stanley I have been madly cross checking names and databases, trying to find the familial thread. Paternal grandmother or maternal side, there are some matches on the mitochondrial DNA that would lead to that conclusion. Unless we are related on both sides, there is always that possibility.

I established a tree on GENI, an almost decent free program on line where I could at least sketch out the family tree again. The internet has brought so many of the difficult to find old records forward to my fingertips, in the old days I pawed through microfiche at the National Archives for things like ship manifests and trips to UCLA to look for Yiskor or holocaust memorial books.

Unfortunately, most of the family tribal histories of the last century ended up the same way. I found record after record of family members falling at places like this one; Uncle Mendel Szkarlat getting his ticket punched at the Majdeneck concentration camp.


J.O n° 276 du 29 novembre 2003 page 20432
Arrêté du 29 septembre 2003 portant apposition de la mention " Mort en déportation " sur les actes et jugements déclaratifs de décès
NOR: DEFS0302166A

Szkarlat (Jechiel, Mendel), né le 12 février 1914 à Varsovie (Pologne), décédé le 7 mars 1943 à Lublin-Maïdanek (Pologne) et non le 2 mars 1943 à Drancy (Seine).

There are plenty more, I won't bore you or torture you with them. I find my grandfather's birth record at the archives from  Sierpc, near Warsaw.


We always heard of an older brother, killed in the war. Grandpa would never talk about it. Might have switched names with him. Grandma Pessa did, with her dead sister Pola, in order to enter the country. I have her passport. Makes me illegal, I bet. Maybe its one of these other guys...

Grandma Pessa had nine brothers and sisters. Only one or two made it out of Wyszkow, Malka and maybe Brana. The family had owned a lumber mill in Wyszkow, near the Vistula Forest.

I know it sounds strange but I wonder what it would be like to have been there. In the Warsaw ghetto, fighting with my ancestors for survival. Fighting the most existential battle in history, the fight to extinguish a whole people. Their are times in history when things start to really count. The good fight.

Discovering my lost relatives, doing everything I can to breathe some life into their horrible stories, paying homage to their suffering, it makes me feel very honored and full of respect, to look back, look back once again, at their soft flickering lights.

Friday Mailbag

I got this gmail attachment from a friend I will call M today, a wealthy republican who had the decency recently to tell me that he hated my politics. 

         
Interesting Perspective by a Former Secret Service Agent.
A member of our Connector Group has been reading a book written by a retired member of the Secret Service.  The book reveals information about the Presidents
 and Vice Presidents as well as some of the first ladies.   A small recap of this information follows:
.
 JFK and LBJ = Philanderers of the highest order.  Both of these men kept a lot of women in the White House for affairs.  Both set up "early warning" systems that
  let them know when their wives were nearby.  They were totally immoral men.   LBJ was as crude as the day is long.  He once appeared nude on Air Force One.
.
  Nixon = He was a moral man, but was to be too paranoid for his own good.  He had a shaky relationship with some members of his family.  Nixon was reclusive
  at times.
.
 Agnew = He was a nice, decent man.   Those who know him well and liked him were surprised at his downfall..
 Ford = A true gentlemen who treated the Secret Service with respect and dignity..
 Jimmy Carter = A complete phony who would portray one picture of himself to public and very different in private.   He would be shown carrying his own luggage,
but his suit cases were always empty.  He kept empty ones just for photo ops.  He wanted people to see him as pious and a non drinker, but he and his family drank
alcohol quite often.   He showed disdain for the Secret Service, and was very irresponsible with the "football" nuclear codes.  He didn't think it was a big deal and
would keep his military aides at a distance.   He appeared never to acknowledge military or Secret service.  He felt they were there to serve him.  Which was true!
.
Ronald Reagan = The real deal.   He was moral, honest, respectful and dignified.  He treated Secret Service and everyone else with respect and honor.  He always
 thanked everyone all the time.   He took the time to know everyone on a personal level.   One story was early on in Presidency the President came out of his room
 with a side arm attached to his hip. The Agent in charge asked "Why the pistol Mr. President."  President Reagan replied, "In case you boys can't get the job done,
 I can  help."  It was common for him to carry a pistol.   People didn't know that when he met with Gorbachev, he had a pistol in his briefcase.  Reagan, upon learning
 that Gary Hart was caught with Donna Rice during the election said, "Boys will be boys, but boys will not be President."
.
 
Nancy Reagan = Very nice but very  protective of the President..the Secret Service was always caught in  the middle. Nancy would try to control what the President
 ate all the  time (healthy) and he would say to the Agents  "come on you gotta help me out." The  Reagans rarely drank alcohol.  Secret Service  agents said they could
 count on one hand the times the Reagan were served alcohol other than wine during  dinner.     Agents said "for all the fake bluster of the Carters, it was the Reagans
 who lived life as genuinely moral people.
.
 
George and Barbara Bush = were extremely kind  and considerate.  They were always respectful.   They took great care in making sure the  agents comforts were
 taken care of.  They would bring them meals and did other nice things for them.  Barbara Bush brought warm clothes to agents standing outside at Kennebunkport.
 One agent who was given a warm hat tried to nicely say no thanks when his head was obviously freezing was told by President Bush, "Son, don't argue with the first
 lady, put the hat on."
.
 
Bill Clinton = Presidency was one giant party.  He wasn't trustworthy.   It appeared to the agents that he was nice because he wanted everyone to like him.  To Bill, life
 was just one big game and party.
.
 
Hillary Clinton = was another phony.  Her outward personality would change the instant cameras were near. She hated with open disdain the military and Secret Service.
 She felt that people around her were there only to serve her.  It was almost funny that she was always trying to keep tabs on Bill.  And I don't blame her one bit.
 .
 
Al Gore = Was an pompous jackass who was once overheard by his Secret Service detail telling his son that he needed to do better in school or he "would end up like
 these guys" and pointed to the agents.   The agents didn't like this guy at all.
.
George W Bush = They loved him and Laura Bush. They said no one is a nicer person than Laura Bush who never has a  harsh word to say about anyone. The Bush's went
out of their way to take care of the Secret Service and made sure they were well cared for with  meals and other comforts.   George W was the most prompt of the Presidents.
He ran his administration like a well oiled machine.  He was also the best who was in the best physical shape.  He had a very strict workout regimen. The Bush's made sure
that all members of their administration understood they were to respect and be considerate of the Secret Service.  They were extremely popular with the Secret Service
!
.
Karl Rove went out of his way to be very courteous to the Secret Service agents.
.
Barack Obama - were the Clintons all over again - Both he and Michelle hate members of the military and looks down on the Secret Service.   Have you ever seen President
Obama look at the Military person who is saluting the President as he disembarks from Air Force One or the President's helicopter?  When Obama first became President,
he never returned the salute.  Apparently a military member of the White House Staff took him aside and gently informed him that it was traditional for the President to return
the salute, but he must have forgotten to tell President Obama that members of the military were always respectfully and courteously looked at when a salute is returned by
the President.   Or Obama was told and has chosen to ignore this tradition.  



I emailed him this back. Sounds like viral bullshit to me. Figured out when he started praising Agnew. Didn't he almost go to jail?: 




I get it M. All the democrats are pieces of shit. All the republicans were saints. It's funny, I have heard stories of Bush I philandering but they don't get spilled by this anonymous "secret service person."  If he had any integrity he would use his actual name and take responsibility for his slander. Nixon was a moral guy, all right, when he wasn't freaking out about the horrible jews that were out to get him, of course. Or the awful blacks. This was really amusing. Thanks for sending it.

Robert 
.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Roy Buchanan



Sit back, loosen your tie and turn this one up. If you need to grab the refreshment of your choice , press the pause button, we'll wait. Roy Buchanan was the tone master, the most knob twistiest, telecastin, f*thermuckin, demon of the fretboard of our time. Jeff Beck couldn't touch his trem, he was so bad, it hurt. His dad was a Pentecostal preacher in Arkansas. He played with first Dale and then Ronnie Hawkins. Found hung in a jail cell in Fairfax County Virginia with strange bruises on his head. Cops said it was a suicide. A quiet titan.

Democrats for Johnson

Being an outspoken guy, I tend to take flak from all sides. My moderate republican and catholic friend Mike told me that I should be writing about antiques instead of the "left wing poison" I regularly spew on these pages. I overheard some people at the cocktail party the other night who thought that they were out of earshot who just couldn't believe that I was such a zionist, of course anathema in liberal circles. I know that if person a is really liking something I have written, the law of inverse hydrostatic invective says that person b is sure to be miffed. And so forth. They say never to discuss politics or religion, but what the hell is left? The weather? Have to call em as I see em. Actually I am quite amazed at how tolerant some of my right wing friends are at my bellicosity. Steve from Phoenix may disagree with me about everything but he has never been less than a gentleman. As has MMWB and LeMasters. Thank you, gents.

***

I see that the House Committee on Rules blocked an amendment from going to vote on Wednesday that would have allowed military rape victims to access abortion care through their government-provided health plans. Rape is a terrible problem in the armed services. The Pentagon reported more than 3,000 cases in FY 2009, and the Department of Defense estimates that reported incidents only account for a small fraction of the sexual assaults that actually occur.

"Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) and five other House Democrats submitted an amendment to the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act that would reverse the current policy of denying abortion coverage to military women who are raped and become pregnant during their service. As the bill currently stands, servicewomen have to pay out of pocket for an expensive abortion procedure unless they can prove that their lives are in danger.
By contrast, other federal bans on abortion coverage, including those for Medicaid recipients, federal employees, and women in federal prisons, all include exceptions for victims of rape and incest. The ban on abortion coverage for military rape victims is actually more extreme than the Hyde Amendment, which has prohibited federally-funded abortions for the past 30 years except in the cases of rape, incest and life endangerment."

The boys on the House Committee on Rules, led by Rep. David Dreier, apparently didn't want this bill to come up and killed it. Tough luck ladies. Please know that you had your unwanted child in service to your country.


***


Speaking of rape and hostility to women, I thought that the attitude of the french was telling regarding  Dominique Strauss-Kahn getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar . Like former PM Giscard D'estang said about Bill Clinton's pecadillos,"Why else would one be Prime Minister?" I heard one french dignitary bluster that he was only evoking  “le troussage de domestique” or his god given right to diddle the domestic help. You americans are such prudes, you know?

***

The 2012 election is really shaping up to be a barnburner. We got Michelle Bachman, Newt Gingrich, Palin, Romney, Huntsman, Pawlenty and Santorum all ready to throw their chapeaus in the ring. Am I forgetting anybody? Mitch Daniels wants to stay home with his wife and not have to explain all those Bush Administration budget questions. They are even talking about getting Giuliani out of mothballs for one last go. I guess Grumpy and Sneezy had other commitments.

Out of all of these people, the guy I would fear as a democrat would be Huntsman. I believe that he is a ketchup heir and we haven't had ketchup money in the race since John Heinz Kerry unscrewed the cap on his campaign. Huntsman seems to be the most level headed of this bunch. He is the more electable mormon, I guess. Worked for Obama as an Ambassador to China. Knows which fork to use for the salad course.

The winner of biggest shit bag is definitely Gingrich. The guy who says he dumped his cancer ridden wife on her hospital bed because she was a cadillac and he only needed a chevy. (May have my car models askew, forgive me.) Well Newtie, that chevy has sure got some expensive bling. The way that this guy can run from his own words like teflon is astounding, the most narcissistic jagoff in memory.

Palin or Bachmann would be a dream. Palin has fire in her belly, she says, that is unless she's just knocked up again. Bachmann is beyond stupid, I would really hope for either one of them as the Republican standard bearer. The world's worst comb over has opted out and is slithering back to his tower. Romney has changed his positions more times than I can count but this version of Romney 3.7 seems like a fairly moderate one. Maybe it's just the present company that makes him look a tad saner and more level headed. Santorum called out John McCain last week and said he didn't know anything about torture. Plus his name means something dirty in latin, or so I understand. Could never vote for him. Looks like he pooped his pants. And he lost his own state by 18 points in the last election. People's choice Herman Cain adds a dash of color. If by color you mean a muslim baiting, conservative philosophy so far to the right he makes Clarence Thomas look like Malcolm X.

I think that the Blast is going to endorse Gary Johnson. Johnson squared away the economy in his state, wants a sensible drug policy, is against military adventurism.

Here is a blurb from his website:

Gary Johnson has been an outspoken advocate for efficient government, lower taxes, winning the war on drug abuse, protection of civil liberties, revitalization of the economy and promoting entrepreneurship and privatization.
Johnson is best known for his veto record, which includes over 750 vetoes during his time in office, more than all other governors combined. He cut taxes 14 times while never raising them and when he left office, New Mexico was one of only four states in the country with a balanced budget.  

Sounds pretty good to me. There's my man. I'm backing the Republican this time. This Republican.

***

Yma Sumac

Working on the virtual chain gang

I am as guilty as the next guy but this living part time in a virtual world business is creating real life stories so bizarre that even Philip Dick couldn't have envisioned them. Last year I told you the story of Qiu Chengwei, who killed his friend Zhu Caoyuan for stealing his virtual sword from the Legend of Mir online game.

Today the Guardian recounts the story of a new industry in the People's  Republic of China. Prisoners at the Jixi prison camp are forced to spend long hours "gold farming." Gold farming, if you are not familiar, is obtaining virtual currency in online video games by building online credits through the monotonous repetition of basic tasks in games such as World of Warcraft. So that the fat, lazy adolescents in the suburbs won't have to. The Prison guards at the camp forced prisoners like Lui Dali to work all day breaking rocks, digging trenches and carving chopsticks. By night he was forced to work on the online games.
Liu says he was one of scores of prisoners forced to play online games to build up credits that prison guards would then trade for real money. The 54-year-old, a former prison guard who was jailed for three years in 2004 for "illegally petitioning" the central government about corruption in his hometown, reckons the operation was even more lucrative than the physical labour that prisoners were also forced to do. 
"Prison bosses made more money forcing inmates to play games than they do forcing people to do manual labour," Liu told the Guardian. "There were 300 prisoners forced to play games. We worked 12-hour shifts in the camp. I heard them say they could earn 5,000-6,000rmb [£470-570] a day. We didn't see any of the money. The computers were never turned off." 
Memories from his detention at Jixi re-education-through-labour camp in Heilongjiang province from 2004 still haunt Liu. As well as backbreaking mining toil, he carved chopsticks and toothpicks out of planks of wood until his hands were raw and assembled car seat covers that the prison exported to South Korea and Japan. He was also made to memorize communist literature to pay off his debt to society. 
But it was the forced online gaming that was the most surreal part of his imprisonment. The hard slog may have been virtual, but the punishment for falling behind was real. 
"If I couldn't complete my work quota, they would punish me physically. They would make me stand with my hands raised in the air and after I returned to my dormitory they would beat me with plastic pipes. We kept playing until we could barely see things," he said.
Over 1.2 billion dollars are estimated to have been traded for virtual currency last year. There are over 100,000 estimated gold farmers in China, approximately 80% of the world's number. I am sure that most gamers would never consider (or care frankly) that the virtual money they were purchasing came from the sweat and blood of prisoners, or even political prisoners like Liu. But it is disturbing nonetheless. Free all political prisoners, even those trapped in the hells of cyberspace.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

That beautiful glow.

Dividing Lines


While only seven months ago we stood poised on the brink of a new conservative renaissance, Republicans have managed to once again muck it all up. They hitched their wagons to proposals to end Medicare that are now dangerously close to hurtling them all off of a cliff. It is not the habit of the Blue Heron Blast to gloat but excuse me while I fire up the popcorn popper and await the immolation.

Americans have embraced the concept of a safety net since Roosevelt, to the consternation of tough love Republicans. We want to take care of the very young and very old and our civility has set us apart from other nations. Are our entitlement programs sustainable, with the rate of expected expense? Probably not. But rather than invoke common sense revisions to existing programs, like means testing, Rep. Paul Ryan's plan would end Medicare, instead giving out money to the states in the form of block grants so that people could buy private insurance. Seniors would pay 70% of their medical costs out of pocket instead of the current 30%.

According to a Kaiser Survey out today, people just don't buy it. 60% want to keep Medicare as it is, 30% want to revise it and only 13% are in favor of the GOP plan. I don't think that people trust the states and I don't think they trust the Republicans. Rep. Ryan admits that the private insurance vouchers will not cover people comprehensively like Medicare and that people would be dropped from plans.

Today 40 Republican Senators voted for the House plan to kill Medicare. Common sense prevailed with a few fringe Republicans like Snowe, Collins and Brown joining the Democrats to defeat the bill.

***

I am getting more and more elderly people coming into the gallery to sell their most cherished possessions. Proud people in their seventies and older who played by the rules and now have ended up with nothing. I visited a home last week of an elderly couple who are filing chapter 7 today, their entire life now in shambles. I had to sift through their effects to see if there was anything that could keep them afloat. Try to find a decent job nowadays when you are that age.

The Bush recession left one out of four American seniors completely bereft of their retirement nest egg. When people lost their jobs, they unfortunately lost their health insurance. Have you noticed the increased numbers of family murder suicides in the news lately? Parents who think that it would be better for all concerned to die than to have to watch their children suffer. It's horrible but it is happening.

Who has held those responsible accountable for the notion that you could cut tax revenue while increasing spending? Remember, if we just let the free market loose what incredible things would be in store for us? Well now we see the fruit of deregulation. Who still remembers that we had a national surplus at the end of the Clinton presidency? While the rich and the oil companies have certainly got richer, the middle class and the poor have bore the brunt of the successful campaign to redistribute wealth to the top of the economic pyramid.

It takes a lot to wake up the American people. With a little finesse the Repubs could have had it all. But they decided to play with fire and have over reached, their plan contrary to the most basic notions of fairness and equity that most of us hold sacred. They created a false crisis, surely a country that can afford to subsidize big oil and to dump billions of dollars in pointless wars in the middle east can afford to take care of the poor and the weak in this country.

Not content to attack teachers, firemen and the police with their demagoguery, to decimate nutrition programs for the youth, they went after one of the few programs that separated us from the barbarians, one that reflects our desire that our elderly live the end of their days with a modicum of peace and dignity.

I suggest that the GOP stand firm and play this one to the hilt. The American people deserve to know what they really stand for.

Mel Tormé

Please kill me, just make them shut up...

According to an article I just read in The Australian, Osama bin Laden's older Saudi wives are putting the finger on little Amal, the yemeni wife half their age, as the one responsible for dropping a dime on their beloved husband and face of international terrorism.
"The three widows of Osama bin Laden are turning on each other in custody, with two older Saudi women blaming a much younger Yemeni wife for leading American intelligence to their hideout.
"It's vicious," said a Pakistani official briefed on the interrogation of the widows. "The older wives think the younger one tipped off the Americans or was tracked when she came to join him."
The al-Qa'ida leader was living with three wives when he was killed in Abbottabad three weeks ago. Until US investigators discovered his hiding place, it was not known whether bin Laden and his family were alive. Some reports suggested that they had been killed in the US bombing of Afghanistan.
Although the compound where bin Laden hid for five years was large, the three wives were all cooped up in the same house. The older two lived on the second floor and the youngest one on the top. Their husband alternated between them. Pakistani officials who have been debriefing the women portray life in the compound as an Islamic version of Desperate Housewives.
"It's a well-known fact that when you have two older wives and then this young one comes along half their age, they don't like it," said one.
The wives even dispute who tried to protect their husband in the raid. The youngest was reported to have attempted to save him, sustaining a bullet wound to her calf. But the older wives say they were the ones who rushed to shield him.
Their version appears to be corroborated by an account of the raid, given by US officials last week. They said that when the Navy Seals reached the top floor, two women were in front of bin Laden, trying to protect him. One Seal shoved them away, fearing they might be wearing suicide bomb vests.
Bin Laden's third and fourth wives, the older Saudi women, married him in the 1980s. At 62, Khaira Husain Sabir is eight years older than her husband. Known as Umm Hamza, or mother of Hamza, she has a degree in Arabic and before their marriage in 1985 worked as a teacher of deaf children.
Siham Abdulla bin Husain, 54, known as Umm Khalid - mother of Khalid, a son who was killed in the raid - has a doctorate in Islamic jurisprudence, and taught Arabic.
The two women converted a room in the Abbottabad compound into a classroom for Khaira's grandchildren.
Bin Laden's first marriage was in 1974 to his Syrian cousin Najwa when he was 17 and she just 15. Described by her sister-in-law Carmen bin Laden as "meek, submissive, highly religious and constantly pregnant", she had 11 children, the last one just before the September 11 attacks of 2001. His second wife Khalifa was a Saudi teacher who divorced him.
According to Najwa, who with her son Omar co-wrote a book, Growing Up Bin Laden, the original four had such good relations she called the others her "sister wives". A fifth marriage lasted only 48 hours.
But the older wives resented Amal Ahmed al-Sadah, a Yemeni who bin Laden married in July 2000 when she was 17. Even his mother was said to have told him off.
Apart from their time in Tora Bora, the wives always had separate houses or apartments. Bin Laden divided his nights between them.
In Abbottabad, CIA agents, who watched bin Laden from satellites and stealth drones referred to the tall figure walking round and round the compound as the Pacer. It is not known when Amal arrived but she is believed to have given birth to twins this year."
Now, you can call me crass but between all the broads at each other's throats and his porn stash, I wonder how Osama had time to even think about plotting the world's destruction. The young wife was bound to muck things up for the turbaned mullah. Another case of man thinking with the little head again. Makes me wonder if he actually blew the whistle on himself, just to relieve himself from the constant harping and bitching?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dirty Business

Green War at the Club of Disaffection

Quotes from Barack Obama:

“I would not have the Justice Department prosecutin­g and raiding medical marijuana users. It’s not a good use of our resources.­” — August 21, 2007, event in Nashua, New Hampshire

“I don’t think that should be a top priority of us, raiding people who are using ... medical marijuana. With all the things we’ve got to worry about, and our Justice Department should be doing, that probably shouldn’t be a high priority.” — June 2, 2007, town hall meeting in Laconia, New Hampshire

“You know, it’s really not a good use of Justice Department resources.­” — responding to whether the federal government should stop medical marijuana raids, August 13, 2007, town hall meeting in Nashua, New Hampshire


“The Justice Department going after sick individual­s using [marijuana­] as a palliative instead of going after serious criminals makes no sense.” — July 21, 2007, town hall meeting in Manchester­, New Hampshire


California's in a heap of trouble. William Kennedy, the mercurial swing vote on the Supreme Court of the United States, took a rare excursion with the liberal wing this week. He decided that California's prison system is so overcrowded that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and joined his liberal cronies in a 5 to 4 decision. And we have to rid ourselves of 33,000 prisoners in California over the next two years.

"Overcrowding has overtaken the limited resources of prison staff; imposed demands well beyond the capacity of medical and mental health facilities; and created unsanitary and unsafe conditions that make progress in the provision of care difficult or impossible to achieve," wrote Justice Anthony M. Kennedy for the majority.

We currently have 130,000 prisons incarcerated in prisons in the golden state. 33 prisons that were designed for a maximum of 80,000 people. I have an idea. Why not free the approximately 17,000 people that are stewing in California's prison and jail system for marijuana related offenses? California still arrests around 60,000 people yearly for marijuana offenses, according to the Department of Justice.

Jeffrey A. Miron is a senior lecturer in economics at Harvard University and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Professor Miron earned his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and chaired the economics department at Boston University prior to joining the Harvard faculty. Miron wrote a white paper last year that explored the financial benefits to ending the drug war.
State and federal governments in the United States face massive looming fiscal deficits. One policy change that can reduce deficits is ending the drug war. Legalization means reduced expenditure on enforcement and an increase in tax revenue from legalized sales.This report estimates that legalizing drugs would save roughly $41.3 billion per year in government expenditure on enforcement of prohibition. Of these savings, $25.7 billion would accrue to state and local governments, while $15.6 billion would accrue to the federal government.Approximately $8.7 billion of the savings would result from legalization of marijuana and $32.6 billion from legalization of other drugs.The report also estimates that drug legalization would yield tax revenue of $46.7 billion annually, assuming legal drugs were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco. Approximately $8.7 billion of this revenue would result from legalization of marijuana and $38.0 billion from legalization of other drugs.
Unfortunately, our President, Barack Obama, an admitted former pot smoker, has not been forthright with the American people in regards to marijuana. Before becoming president, then-Senator Obama campaigned on the promise that he would not use "Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws." His Attorney General, Eric Holder sent initial signals that the administration would respect state laws regarding medical marijuana. In 2009 he sent out the famous Ogden Memo to U.S. Attorneys:
The prosecution of significant traffickers of illegal drugs, including marijuana, and the disruption of illegal drug manufacturing and trafficking networks continues to be a core priority in the Department's efforts against narcotics and dangerous drugs, and the Department's investigative and prosecutorial resources should be directed towards these objectives. As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.
Contrast that with this letter sent to the Arizona Department of Health Services May 2, 2011:
 "The United States Attorneys Office ... will vigorously prosecute individuals and organizations that participate in the unlawful manufacturing, distribution and marketing activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law."
...U.S. Attorneys Jenny Durkan of Seattle and Michael Ormsby of Spokane, recently threatened "civil and criminal legal remedies" (read: sanctions) against Washington state citizens, including state employees, who assist with or engage in the production or distribution of medical cannabis, "even if such activities are permitted under state law."

The Department of Justice has been involved in a similar pattern of harassment of State Marijuana programs across the country recently. Letters have been sent to local and state officials in at least 9 different medical marijuana states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

According to the Colorado Independent, in a Nixonian twist, ...the IRS is thought to have begun audits on at least 12 medical marijuana dispensaries in California under the determination that past business deductions are invalid because of a clause in the federal tax code prohibiting any business that traffics in Schedule I or II drugs from making business deductions on their tax returns. The move could bankrupt every dispensary that it targets. The first dispensary to receive a final audit decision from the IRS is the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana (MAMM) in Fairfax, Calif.

Rather than easing draconian laws that penalize marijuana users like heroin users, the drug war has gotten worse during the Obama Administration. There were over 835,000 Americans jailed for marijuana in the first year of the Obama presidency, higher even than his predecessor. There have been at least 90 DEA SWAT-style raids since Obama took office.


It has been nine years and the Federal Government  has still failed to answer a request to reclassify the drug from Schedule 1 to a drug with medical benefits.
A coalition of public interest advocacy groups filed suit today in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to compel the Obama administration to respond to a nine-year-old petition to reclassify marijuana under federal law.
The suit was filed by attorneys Joe Elford of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and Michael Kennedy of the NORML Legal Committee on behalf of the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC). The Coalition, which includes NORML and California NORML, filed a comprehensive rescheduling petition with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on October 9, 2002 challenging marijuana’s Schedule I classification as a controlled substance with “no currently accepted medical use” and a “high potential for abuse.” The agency formally accepted the petition for filing on April 3, 2003, and per the provisions of the United States Controlled Substances Act (CSA) referred the petition to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in July 2004 for a full scientific and medical evaluation.
To date, the federal government has not publicly responded to the petition.
Today’s lawsuit petitions the Court for a writ of mandamus “directing the DEA and the Attorney General to issue a full and final determination on petitioners’ Petition to reschedule marijuana, or, alternatively, state whether it will initiate rule making proceedings, within 60 days.”
It states:
“The DEA’s delay here of more than eight years since the rescheduling Petition was filed — and more than four years since it received HHS’ binding evaluation and recommendations — is inexcusable. … [T]his agency delay in acting on the rescheduling Petition is unreasonable, requiring this Court to intervene.”
Under the CSA, the Attorney General has the authority to reschedule a drug if he finds that it does not meet the criteria for the schedule to which it has been assigned. The Attorney General has delegated this authority to the Administrator of the DEA, presently Michelle Leonhart.
The 2002 CRC petition seeks to reschedule cannabis from its Schedule I designation to a less restrictive class under the CSA “on the grounds that: (1) marijuana does have accepted medical uses in the United States; (2) it is safe for use under medical supervision and has an abuse potential lower than Schedule I and II drugs; and (3) it has a dependence liability that is also lower than Schedule I or II drugs.”
NORML filed a similar rescheduling petition with the DEA in 1972, but was not granted a federal hearing on the issue until 1986. In 1988, DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis Young ruled that marijuana did not meet the legal criteria of a Schedule I prohibited drug and should be reclassified. Then-DEA Administrator John Lawn rejected Young’s determination, a decision the D.C. Court of Appeals eventually affirmed in 1994.
Nine years is plenty of time. I read the other day about a little girl suffering from a rare form of cancer who died recently whose family could not procure the drug legally for her. As a medical marijuana user and patient who went through multiple bouts of cancer and heart surgery, I can tell you from personal experience how marijuana kept me off addictive painkillers and eased my discomfort during my long struggle. Yes, some people are gaming the medical system but I still run into many elderly people that don't know how to score and are suffering for their inability to procure a benign substance that can deliver necessary relief without any harmful side effects.

The people who still have their head in the sand are law enforcement who use drug war booty to enrich their departments and the criminal cartels who stand to lose money if reefer is legalized or decriminalized.

President Obama has a habit of saying one thing and doing another. We have a never ending war in Afghanistan and the middle east, a continuation of Bush era warrantless Patriot Act/ Wiretap behavior, complete backtracking on mountaintop coal removal and oil drilling. Now he gets heavy with the pot heads. I am starting to wonder how long it will take before my liberal friends figure out that he is actually a priggish, prevaricating hypocrite.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Alex Nowitz, Performance No.: 3

Soft Wired

Birth of the new man - Salvador Dali
I have met three individuals in the last several months that have caused me to reevaluate my understanding of the human cognitive experience. I suppose that it is a normal conceit to assume that we all experience the world the same way but these interactions have made me reconsider my beliefs. All three people share several traits, they are highly intelligent, warm and loving and successful in their fields of endeavor.

An old friend confided to me that he has Asperger's Syndrome. Aspergers is a Personality Development Disorder (PDD) that has much in common with high functioning autism. Asperger's syndrome affects from 0.024% to 0.36% of children. It is more common in males than in females, and usually is first diagnosed in children between the ages of 2 and 6 years. Asperger's individuals usually have problems with social interactions, exhibit repetitive motions like hand wringing similar to OCD, display ritualistic behaviors, physical clumsiness and communication difficulties.

I always just thought my friend was shy but he explained to me how his unique persona manifests and takes shape. He has problems talking to more than one or two people at a time and reading people's faces and intentions. A product of a military home, he was often bullied in new locales, lacking the sensitivity to understand whom to trust. This caused him to limit his social interactions. He said that he was clumsy as a youth. If he is in a room of multiple people, he focuses on one person and everything else becomes a loud drone.

I appreciate my friend and am happy that he has allowed me back into his life. He has the greatest gift we can have, the ability to experience joy.

The second individual is a very successful CEO of a worldwide company who came in with his wife to buy a painting, their second from me. I asked him what he thought of the paintings and he looked at me blankly. He told me that he didn't have the facility to derive happiness from visual cues. He said that ideas were what motivated him. He pointed at his watch and said the facility to understand how processes worked, like the watch mechanism, gave him happiness. He could look at paintings clinically but they had absolutely no emotional resonation with him. He apparently lacked the innate machinery to appreciate aesthetic beauty.

This really intrigued me and I delved further. He also got no satisfaction from music, either, or food. I finally pinned him down on sunsets. He said that sunsets were okay. I am not sure if he was just throwing me a bone.  What interested me is that I realized that I am the kind of person who experiences the world through my senses, taste, visual, hearing, touch, I am really a sensualist. But there are apparently people out there who process completely differently than I do. This man is completely cerebral and vive la différence. While my innate sense of composition drives my being to a certain extent, such motivations are meaningless to this man.

The third individual is a lovely woman who I have run into the last several years and am just getting to know better. She has very rare traits called prosopognosia or prosopamnesia, the inability to recognize or remember faces. This trait, in varying levels, affects up to 2.5% of the world's population. I looked into the disorder on Wiki:

Apperceptive prosopagnosia is thought to be a disorder of some of the earliest processes in the face perception system. People with this disorder cannot make any sense of faces and are unable to make same-different judgments when they are presented with pictures of different faces. They may also be unable to work out attributes such as age or gender from a face. However, they may be able to recognize people based on non-face clues such as their clothing, hairstyle or voice.
Associative prosopagnosia is thought to be an impairment to the links between early face perception processes and the semantic information we hold about people in our memories. People with this form of the disorder may be able to say whether photos of people's faces are the same or different and derive the age and gender from a face (suggesting they can make sense of some face information) but may not be able to subsequently identify the person or provide any information about them such as their name, occupation, or when they were last encountered. They may be able to recognize and produce such information based on non-face information such as voice, hair, or even particularly distinctive facial features (such as a distinctive moustache) that does not require the structure of the face to be understood. Typically such people do not report that 'faces make no sense' but simply that they do not look distinctive in any way.
Developmental prosopagnosia (DP) is a face-recognition deficit that is lifelong, manifesting in early childhood, and that cannot be attributed to acquired brain damage. However, a number of studies have found functional deficits in DP both on the basis of EEG measures and fMRI. It has been suggested that a genetic factor is responsible for the condition.
There seem to be two categories of DP patients:
- patients who are impaired in basic face processing (age estimation, judgment of facial affect) and also show deficits on other forms of visual processing;
- patients with pure face-recognition impairments in the presence of intact basic visual processing.
The first group of patients fail to obtain view-centered descriptions. According to the Bruce and Young model of face recognition, these are precursors of the more abstract expression-independent descriptions. View-centered descriptions do not seem to be specific for faces, as the patients with impairments of processing the physical aspects of faces also show difficulties in non-facial tasks like object recognition or tests of visuo-spatial abilities.
However, there is as yet only limited evidence for a classification into different subtypes.
There are many developmental disorders that incorporate within themselves an increased likelihood that the person will have differences in face perception, of which the person may or may not be aware. That is to say, the person may or may not have insight in the clinical sense of the word. However, the mechanism by which these effects take place is largely unknown. A partial list of some disorders that often have prosopagnosiac components would include nonverbal learning disorder, Williams syndrome, and autism spectrum disorders in general. However, these types of disorders are very complicated, so arbitrary assumptions should be avoided.


My friend has to build a complicated internal database of cues in order to recognize familiar faces. It gets easier as she gets to know someone. Interestingly, she also spoke of Aspergers, and my first friend also talked about his own facial mapping problems. And she also talked about being bullied herself and her own flight urge like the first individual. The question has to be raised if the problems are soley those of nature or nurture.

In addition, she has a hyper-attenuated sense of smell, which causes her to be repulsed by certain smells and people. I appreciate that she has confided in me, as the rest of the people have and assure them that they will remain anonymous.

Lacking the perceptual equipment to discern the difference between friend or foe, is it any wonder that these friends seek refuge in a safe island away from potential threats? What an outsider might see as shyness and aloofness in reality is a screen erected by their psyches to protect them.

***

I have another friend whose five year old daughter has been diagnosed with aspergers and autism as well. Like these folks, she seemed perfectly normal to me. She came into the gallery and was just a joy, loving the visual stimulation and being very communicative. He was amazed as well, because she had the tendency to curl up in a fetal ball at home. Her therapist said that she had a positive breakout experience in my gallery, something that I am proud of.

I celebrate the differences that my friends have with me and the fact that we all can process life so differently from one another. I am an information processor, the closer to the tap the better. But I can now better understand why some people need a filter and to keep their distance. Hopefully we can all develop more empathy for those of us with these uncommon gifts and traits.

Jimmy meets a homosexual.





Sunday, May 22, 2011

Baby Who

It was about two o'clock friday afternoon when Lena and Ron heard a cacophony of crows outside their beautiful Cardiff home.

There were at least fifty of the loud black birds barking at something and she went outside to investigate the object of their ire.

Lena found this poor little horned owl and ran off its noisy attackers by blowing her tibetan shell as loud as she could.

The little bird flew from the neighbors roof into the safety of a nearby fig tree.

Adorable little owl.

***

Ron and Lena had milestone birthdays this week and we went to a little party last night at their posh pad. Lena found these great masks once on a trip to London at Madame Tussauds. She has a huge selection now and as the night flew by and we got happier people started putting them on.




Saturday, May 21, 2011

ROBERT PALMER

Light and Shadow

Niagara Skyline © Robert Sommers


I am pleased to announce that plans are moving forward for the second annual Fallbrook Photography Show that I am privileged to curate at the Pinnell Gallery. The show will take place the month of November. Last year's show was a stunning success by any measure, including good sales. I want to make it even better this year.

This year the photography submissions will be limited to black and white. While I have invited back the fourteen photographers that exhibited last year, I would encourage entries from the public at large, no matter where you hail from. Please send a jpeg to azurebirds at gmail dot com so that I may judge and evaluate them. Finished works must be framed in a simple black frame with a suitable light mat. Wire hangers only, please. There is a limited amount of wall space so please don't be mad if you can't get in to this one. No more than three submissions per entrant. Maximum size for the finished image is 16" x 20".  

***

We have been having an impromptu meeting of photographers practically every saturday at Cafe Primo.
Some very accomplished shutterbugs show up and share their work and expertise. I have learned a lot from these people, whose technical expertise dwarfs my own. Please drop by around 8:00 a.m..

***

I had my photo of the marine juried into the last Fallbrook Art Association Show. While it didn't finish in the money, many artists commended the work, which utilized a very new filter process. The image itself was so severe that a woman walking by confided that it was hard for her to even look at it. The marine in question wasn't real happy that day and it came off pretty well in two dimensions.

***

Having worked with painters for years and having much more experience with them than photographers I can tell you of one major difference between the two disciplines; photographers are lousy at matting and framing. They use cheap frames and crappy mats. It really isn't hard. You make the mat equidistant or weighted on the bottom. The sides can't be thinner than the top. Many photographers tell me that they don't consider themselves as artists but a little basic sense of composition wouldn't hurt regarding proper matting.

***

There is of course an onus on photographers that they only shoot on full manual, automatic modes being the province of the newbies, unwashed and intellectually weak. Let me spill and confess, the majority of my shooting these days is performed on full automatic. For one, much of my technical work is now performed post production, two, I get tired of blowing shots by not dialing in the perfectly appropriate marriage of aperture and shutter speed.

I think it is more important to actually know how to frame a picture or composition and to shoot something that has meaning to me on some level than to spend so much time dealing with the clinical vagaries of  photography. We all have different ways of shooting and if it works for you fine. I have a friend that will spend all day setting up a single shot. He averages about ten a month. I get about 500 shots a day when I am really shooting. My rule this year is to always have the camera at my side and so far I have been pretty good at keeping it. Kerry giving me the extra rig really helped. Best way to become a photographer is to take pictures.

Jim and Janice drove to Tahoe last week and there was a large bear standing in their driveway when they got there but guess what, no camera. Better to have a technically deficient shot than no shot at all. Photographers need to shoot pictures. Lots of them.

I got a lot of compliments for the picture of Leslie shielding her face that was on the blog the last several weeks. It looked like a circa 1965 shot from Life magazine. Desaturated, with full light coming in through the window and landing on the table, it broke several cardinal rules of photography but it worked somehow. It still managed to work. Retha, bless her, said it was the best thing I had ever done. Made me happy too.

***

The best two pieces of advice I have ever received on the subject were from Stan Schnier and Tom Pappas. Stan's was a single word - edit. Tom's was slightly longer but equally succinct. Don't get lost in numbers and histograms, trust your eyes. Very simple. Dial it in so that you like it. Art is like sausage making. You don't need to know what's behind the curtain, or the cellular makeup, or have the newest, most expensive gear, you just have to create something that you enjoy.

***

Shoot something that is meaningful to you and let me have a look.

The End Of The World - Carpenters



Lots of people have covered this Skeeter Davis song, Brenda Lee, Patty Page, Abba's Agnetha and Julie London to name a few but Karen Carpenter kills it and makes it her own. She had an incredible voice. Buddy Rich said that she was one of the world's greatest drummers. Live every day like its your last one, never know when it just might be.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Tony Z sent this over...my apologies.

The Washington Post runs a weekly contest in its Style Section called the 'Style Invitational'.

The requirements this week were to use the two words 'Lewinsky' (the Intern) and 'Kaczynski' (the Unabomber) in the same limerick.

Now, remember, the following winning entries were actually printed verbatim in the newspaper, no bleeps or xxxs:

Third place:

There once was a girl named Lewinsky Who played on a flute like Stravinsky 'Twas 'Hail to the Chief' On this flute made of beef That stole the front page from Kaczynski.

Second place:

Said Clinton to young Ms. Lewinsky, We don't want to leave clues like Kaczynski, Since you made such a mess, Use the hem of your dress And please wipe that stuff off your chinsky.

And the winning entry:

Lewinsky and Clinton have shown What Kaczynski must surely have known, That an intern is better Than a bomb in a letter, When deciding how best to be blown.

We Need A Whole Lot More Of Jesus (And A Lot Less Rock And Roll)

This and that

I saw the young red tail hawk on this branch as I was driving out of the canyon this morning. His sibling confidently and gracefully flew away to the security of the air currents. This one stood and let me capture  his or her magnificence. They are really maturing quickly. I jumped out of the van and snapped off some shots as he or she was only about 12' from where I was standing. A truck drove by and scared the young raptor off. Probably the closest I have ever been, we were both too dumb to know better.

*

I see where LinkedIn had its big IPO yesterday and went crazy. All the investors are afraid that they are going to miss out on the next Google. I predict the thing is a massive flop. It will take the big MySpace dive. I made the mistake of signing up once and now I get pestered with messages to hook up on this professional's network. What the hell does it really do and what purpose does the peer network have other than to annoy you? Or force you to let associates know that you don't really want to be their friend. I do not miss Facebook a bit, except for my communications with Jeff from Omaha, of course, but a lot of our greatest material is now lost in the ether.

*

We are supposed to have brunch with Tracy and Stanley, my new cousin, on sunday at Miltons. She said that in the event of rapture traffic will be really light. I read yesterday that some enterprising people are already renting out their pet sitting services to those christians who think that they will be ascending saturday night and are worried about the animals getting fed.


oops...

*

The blog readership is growing dramatically for some reason. I am being picked up by a lot of aggregation sites and featured for some unknown reason. Welcome, all.


*

I was reading the other day about the danger of planking. Planking as far as I can deduce, is laying prostrate in a supine position, occasionally on top of a car or similar moving object. Also something we do in Pilates. Who knew that laying down would be such a hit? There is also now balling, flexting, sphering, teapotting and various other deviant forms of expression fads arising, at least according to the Urban Dictionary. Oh, those kids today.

*

I also learned about gauging from one of my peers who follows such trends. Gauging is the process of stretching your piercings so that you get those long stretchy earlobes like in National Geographic. Common gauging movements are from 8g to 6g, 2g to 0g and 1/2"g to 5/8"g. Gauging too fast can cause tearing or a "blowout."

The winner of the gauging competition gets to live with an eskimo family for a year, the culture that first celebrated the daft look. I remember watching the eskimo olympics as a kid. They would walk around with more and more weight hanging on their ears until the unfortunate lobe finally tore off. Very hip indeed.

The next thing?