*

*
Black crowned night heron, Lindo Lake

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Welfare mommies

My building is right in front of the County welfare building, the place where people come to pick up their monthly checks. I have watched the process for several years and must admit to be a little dumbfounded. You would not believe how many young women, of all colors, are pushing three and four babies around with them, often with another soon to pop out, fresh from the oven. No job, no father, no problem. The county will give you money and provide you with free medical care. The cars that are in and out of the parking lot, Escalades, Chrysler 300's the indigent have a lot better ride than I am sporting, I can tell you that. People are definitely gaming the system.

If I was on welfare and could not support myself without assistance I would think long and hard about having one, let alone a whole brood of brats on the public dole. I was talking to a friend about this yesterday and he said that the more kids they have, the more money they could get so the welfare moms like to keep a continual hatch going.

It pisses me off that I have to pay for these irresponsible families with my taxes. If you can't do an adequate job of raising one kid, having a string of little tykes just ain't going to make the whole thing any better. And if god has told you that you are free to multiply, make sure that he is going to cover the bill for your living gesture of faith. Because I certainly don't want to.

I am not a breeder so my information might be a little suspect but it appears to me that the wrong people are having the babies these days. And they do it seemingly without a care in the world. Because somebody else is going to foot the bill. If you can not afford to raise a child, do me, the child and yourself a favor, don't.

River

Robin Adler Trio

Last night I went to the Hilltop Center and caught the Robin Adler Trio. Robin is a jazz singer who happens to be married to my guitar teacher, Dave Blackburn. This trio includes the incredible keyboardist and vocalist Nathan Fry.

The show was very well performed, a lot of standards, from Gershwin to Sinatra, with a Leon Russell tune thrown in for good measure.

Both Robin and Nathan are very agile vocalists and had a lot of fun singing duets on the material. A lot of crooning, Nathan even did a Bobby Darin song. I would be lying if I said that this was necessarily my bag but have to admit that I really enjoyed myself. Fry is a superb keyboardist, with a whole symphony somehow hidden away in his keyboard. Dave is a crack drummer and it was a pleasure to see the whole group perform. Robin's voice was emotive and wonderful as usual.

Dave and Robin are perhaps best known for their work on Joni Mitchell material. Next week they have quite the show planned for the night of November 6th (which happens to be my birthday) at Dizzy's. Their band, Mutts of the Planet, are playing the albums  Court and Spark and Blue in their entirety to celebrate the eve of Joni's 68th birthday. The Mutts are an incredible band, Barnaby Finch who played with Benson, Dave Curtis, Peggy Watson, Danny Campbell, Barry Cahill, Robin, Dave and for this show, Joni's bass player on the original two albums (and many more), Max Bennett, one of the founding members of the L.A. Express.

I will unfortunately be out of town and have to miss this one but encourage you to catch the show if you are a fan of this splendid music. They do a remarkable job.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

John Mclaughlin Jonas Hellborg

Patriotic barn in smogbank, Fresno CA.



I shot this coming back from Yosemite last month. Stuck the camera out of the car window at 60 mph. Wish I had had more time.

A woman stuck her head into the door at the Monochrome show today and inquired about getting in next year. Said that she was better than anyone there. I tell you, she is off to one hell of a start.

I was thinking a bit about the process of creating art, be it painting, writing, acting, music, what have you. In photography I see that there are two defined schools and an occasional middle ground. On end of the graph are the people who structure their work, pose everything according to plan. On the other end are the people like me who are on the hunt for "happy accidents." Both approaches are valid, if they are valid for you. All a matter of taste I suppose. Humans seem to be evolving in regards to the creative process, or devolving, depending on your point of view.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was normal for artists to paint in museums, making what is known as "academic copies" of old masters. It was a corollary, I suppose, of playing compositional music, but probably lacking somewhat in terms of scratching one's own creative itch. Like me trying to write another Steinbeck.

Listen to John McLaughlin above. Peerless musician. Fast as they come, consummate tasteful gun slinger. Does he ever jam? As great as he is, he is locked in an idiom that may not leave that much room for improvisation.

I was amazed a few years ago when I was interviewing classical musicians for an art opening. I ended up hiring a cellist with the Redlands Symphony. I told her to just groove and have fun and she was horrified. She was unable to create on her instrument without a score.

I remember an interview on NPR with Mitch Miller. Might have been Fresh Air. Mitch Miller was so good that he did two albums with Charlie Parker. But would not, could not improvise. Told Charlie to write it down and he would play it. These people almost become technicians, albeit masterful technicians. And improvisation usually works best when one actually has something to say.

I always think that the universe is going to throw some inspiration my way greater than my own ability to conceive. It usually does.

Janis Joplin - Ball and Chain

Janis's first major public performance. 1967 at Monterey Pop.

'Liberty Enlightening the World.'

La Liberté éclairant le monde


Yesterday was the 125th anniversary of the dedication of the Statue of Liberty after its long trip from France. The creation of the french sculptor  Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, she was a gift from the people of France. TPM ran some beautiful pictures from the creators workshop and I decided to do the same.  And I found a few more.

 I also ran across an interesting blog post that maintains that Bartholdi was an ardent abolitionist and the lady was originally a shackled black slave. Purportedly at some time prior to completion her features were anglicized. Wickipedia's entry makes a different case, that she was originally an egyptian fellah, or peasant. I don't really know, I wasn't there...I did learn that Liberty comes from the word Libertas, an ancient roman goddess of freedom worshipped by emancipated slaves.






Lonely Avenue

Ernestine Anderson

Carillon's song


Last night at the opening of the Monochrome show, Carlos, Brigitte and the good folks at the Fallbrook School of the Arts delivered the new bronze bell that was cast for me. It is a wonderful and heavy bell, with a great rich chime. The work of Foundry Instructor Brandon Roy, my bell is simply unique.

I suggested a different top ring assembly and he came up with a beautiful design that cements the bell's early japanese design influence. The bell was patina'd by the artist Celou Bonnet in a one of a kind verdigris with a dash of underlying purple. The ringer is a nice found object that suits the bell perfectly. We substituted more of the whirling japanese design elements and lost the maltese crosses.

I want to thank all of these artists. You can order your own special bell from Brigitte, the Executive Director of the Arts Campus.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Silly Putty

Mixed Grill

I saw this car with the interesting juxtaposition of bumper stickers at coffee this morning. Oregon plates. Says it all.

*

Very interesting article on AlterNet. Did you know that you taxpayers out there subsidize a surveillance center on Wall Street staffed by security personnel that work for your friends at Goldman Sachs, Citicorp and most of their corporate cohorts. This way they get to spy on you Occupy Wall Street types and salt your data away for future payback. From the article:

"The surveillance plan became known as the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative and the facility was eventually dubbed the Lower Manhattan Security Coordination Center. It operates round-the-clock. Under the imprimatur of the largest police department in the United States, 2,000 private spy cameras owned by Wall Street firms, together with approximately 1,000 more owned by the NYPD, are relaying live video feeds of people on the streets in lower Manhattan to the center. Once at the center, they can be integrated for analysis. At least 700 cameras scour the midtown area and also relay their live feeds into the downtown center where low-wage NYPD, MTA and Port Authority crime stoppers sit alongside high-wage personnel from Wall Street firms that are currently under at least 51 Federal and state corruption probes for mortgage securitization fraud and other matters.
In addition to video analytics which can, for example, track a person based on the color of their hat or jacket, insiders say the NYPD either has or is working on face recognition software which could track individuals based on facial features. The center is also equipped with live feeds from license plate readers.
According to one person who has toured the center, there are three rows of computer workstations, with approximately two-thirds operated by non-NYPD personnel. The Chief-Leader, the weekly civil service newspaper, identified some of the outside entities that share the space: Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, the Federal Reserve, the New York Stock Exchange."

*

Fantastic piece by Eugene Robinson in today's Washington Post. Must read. CBO came out with a new study today entitled "Trends in the Distribution of Household Income Between 1979 and 2007." Study shows that the class war is in full swing and most of us are, well, losing. From the piece:

"For those at the bottom — the one-fifth of households with the lowest incomes — the increase was just 18 percent. For the middle three-fifths, the average increase was 40 percent. Spread over nearly 30 years, these gains are modest, not meteoric.
By contrast, look at the top 1 percent of earners. Their after-tax household income increased by an astonishing 275 percent. For those keeping track, this means it nearly quadrupled. Nice work, if you can get it."

*

My photography opening is tonight at Pinnell Gallery. The show, titled Monochrome, looks really nice, hope that you can check out the work of the fifteen fine photographers sometime in the next month.


Taylor Buck
Mike Reardon
Louis Nidorf
Ken Seals
N. Dixon Fish
Robert Sommers
Thomas Sauerwein
Bob Feuerstein
Jon Harwood
Kip Peterson
Leven Jester
MIchael Cartwright
Brett Stokes
Grant Brittain
Jerry Kalman


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Jo Ann Campbell - Let Me Do My Twist

Drug Tax


Long time readers of the Blast might remember an article I posted two years ago about an ongoing highway shakedown in Shelby County, Texas. We revisit the topic today. It appears that the Shelby County District Attorney was letting some pretty major drug runners walk if they ponied up enough cash.

Linda Kaye Russell, who has since resigned to take care of her sick mother, collected more than $800,000 in one year targeting smugglers on a well known drug route through her county. Gregory Fuller, a man accused of transporting 15 kilos of cocaine and more than $80,000 in cash, got probation after forfeiting the money to the district attorney. There are many other similar stories.

This kind of twisted behavior highlights the incestuous and symbiotic relationship between law enforcement and organized crime. One hand washes the other. Cops look the other way and the county treasuries' coffers get filled. This is a good example of the immoral behavior that propels our country's venal and corrupt war on drugs.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Season of the Witch - The Strangelings

My Uncle Used To Love Me But She Died

End of the road


I woke up in the dark on monday, the last day of our trip and walked past Old Faithful and throughout it's neighboring upper geyser basin. I was alone and much snow had fallen. I walked amongst elk and bison and made the long trek on the icy walkways to Morning Glory pool, my favorite thermal pool in the park. In 1883 Mrs. E. N. McGowan, wife of Assistant Park Superintendent Charles McGowan,named it "Convolutus", the Latin name for the morning glory flower of which the springs resemble.



I passed so many beautiful pools, it was a dazzle, chimney and castle and so many wonderful spots. My favorite was the riverside geyser, which was really going and then the castle, which had quite the head of steam.

Somewhere about two and a half miles past my starting point, I slipped on an icy walk. I fell on my left wrist, knocking my hip, knee and atlas out in one fell swoop. I should have known, the walk looked so barren and inviting. I instantly reached to protect the extra lens in my pocket. My body has been a basket of aches and tmj ever since.

Thank gosh there was nobody watching except this elk and she didn't seem too terribly impressed.


I hobbled back and we had breakfast and checked out but there was a catch. The road south was now snowed in. How long until it was going to be cleared, we asked? Maybe an hour, maybe 10 was the answer. The employee handed us a Xanterra map showing an alternate route through Montana and Idaho and we decided to try that instead of waiting around.

We drove through West Yellowstone  and into Montana, passing a creelfull of trout fisherman wetting their lines. Another fantastic region to be tasted and experienced.

This guy with the big hump mucked up traffic for about ten minutes and then nonchalantly sidled off, an arm's length from our car.

The trip into Idaho went reasonably well, the Targhee Wilderness and lots of very fantastic areas that I would like to explore one day. But we kept driving and driving until we realized that the map we got was shot and that we had missed the 22 south. We ended up going on gps through my phone and driving through a whole mess of one horse seed potato towns in Idaho Places like Felt. We managed to find the 20 once more after several hours driving and drove through Driggs and on through the Teton Pass, after being afforded a great view of the backside of the Teton range.


I won't bore you with any more details. We put 1094 miles on the car from touchdown to takeoff. Filled 4 4gb sdcards on the trip, close to 2500 photographs. Had an exceptional time and a nice time with one another. Met great folks, ate great food, saw so many beautiful things. A month after the black bear at Yosemite, I see three grizzlies at Yellowstone. Amazing. It will be tough to ever go back at a time when there are more people in the park but early spring might work. A great trip and except for the food, pretty much free. Hope that you have enjoyed this journal and the pictures.

Sketches of China

Happy 10th Birthday, Patriot Act

Some interesting stories in the news the last few days for those handful of americans who are still concerned about their dwindling civil liberties. Yesterday Google released it's quarterly transparency report.

This is the report that shows government information requests for personal user data and also shows which governments are shutting internet access down. Here is a breakdown on the U.S. of A. this quarter:

United States

92 removal requests
63% of removal requests fully or partially complied with
757 items requested to be removed
5950 data requests
93% of data requests fully or partially complied with
11,057 users/accounts specified














These 5950 requests are from United States law enforcement organizations. We know that google caved in to the chinese a couple of years ago, they may have shown a little backbone in refusing to comply with 7% of American requests, if so good for them. It may just be double, double, top secret stuff that they can't talk about. But the report speaks for itself. They are watching you.

From Google:
  • We received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove YouTube videos of police brutality, which we did not remove. Separately, we received requests from a different local law enforcement agency for removal of videos allegedly defaming law enforcement officials. We did not comply with those requests, which we have categorized in this Report as defamation requests.
  • The number of content removal requests we received increased by 70% compared to the previous reporting period.
  • The number of user data requests we received increased by 29% compared to the previous reporting period.
The police have not been really happy with people lately since they are posting so many alleged acts of police brutality online. YouTube is chock full of them and it is a little hard to sweep them all under the rug.

The United States is by far the most draconian player in this Orwellian data grab and censorship, the other industrialized countries fall far behind, even China. U.S. authorities made 113 requests for video content to be removed, with one request under the note of “showing government criticism”.  Who would dare criticize their country and isn't there some sort of law against it?

The US demanded private information about more than 11,000 Google users between January and June this year, almost equal to the number of requests made by 25 other developed countries, including the UK and Russia.

Governments around the world requested private data on about 25,440 people in the first half of this year, with 11,057 of those people in the United States.

The government wants to know what you are viewing, who you are talking to and what you are searching for and most of the time, the internet providers are more than willing to dish out the information, all provided without any thing so pesky as a warrant or a court order.

*

I read something someone wrote yesterday that I thought was spot on. We used to be worried about the government implanting some sort of chip or matrix like bug. We have made it much easier for them, all they really need is that smartphone that you are lugging around. They can get anything they want about you including your current gps location.

*

Wired has an interesting article on its threat level page today. The Patriot Act turns ten today. Remember the act that was created to catch terrorist bad guys? Guess what, terrorist requests make up about 1% of its real function. What is it really being used for? That old war on drugs from the looks of things.


It was a perfect setup and many raised their voices but they could not be heard in the frightened din of 9/11 that made the power grab so successful. What a great recipe for a police state, create a never ending war on terror, suspend the rights to privacy and the need for warrants and probable cause, shitcan that unreasonable search and seizure stuff and the american citizens will certainly be too stupid to notice. And bingo, it worked like chalk.

Here are three provisions of the act that are getting extended.

The “roving wiretap” provision allows the FBI to obtain wiretaps from a secret intelligence court, known as the FISA court (under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act), without identifying the target or what method of communication is to be tapped.
The “lone wolf” measure allows FISA court warrants for the electronic monitoring of a person for any reason — even without showing that the suspect is an agent of a foreign power or a terrorist. The government has said it has never invoked that provision, but the Obama administration said it wanted to retain the authority to do so.
The “business records” provision allows FISA court warrants for any type of record, from banking to library to medical, without the government having to declare that the information sought is connected to a terrorism or espionage investigation.



*


Of course the President was, as a vaunted constitutional scholar, quite concerned with this Patriot Act business while on the campaign trail. From The War we need to win. "As president, Barack Obama would revisit the PATRIOT Act to ensure that there is real and robust oversight of tools like National Security Letters, sneak-and-peek searches, and the use of the material witness provision."

Another thing he has evidently forgotten about.

*

The Obama Administration is seeking permission to lie to the courts regarding FOIA requests.

*

Read Nicholas Merrill's chillingWaPo opinion piece on his own ten year battle with government censorship and gag orders.

*

Hey you run a clean ship and you keep your nose clean. What do you care if the government is snooping over your shoulder?


Why Topsy beats Google on real time information gathering.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Memphis Minnie

Final Insult

Sodomy - peccatum Sodomiticum, or "sin of Sodom."لواط


It is important that we note the sad demise of one Col. Muammar Khadafi.مُعَمَّر القَذَّافِي‎.
Once a proud dictator who engaged in a bevy of dastardly deeds, he oversaw the bombing of the Lockerbie jet and waged a war against the berbers. Yet the colonel seemed to have undergone a genuine softening of late, a turning away from his brothers in the axis of evil and morphing into if not a sweet lovable guy, at least your old, bumbling uncle.

Alas it was not to be, last I heard daffy khadafi was being killed and defiled on the battlefield. Sodomized, the news reports said. Now I am not exactly sure what is meant by such a statement. I would like to now apologize if I offend any of you with my prurient interrogatories. By sodomy, is it implied that a man had anal intercourse with the deceased autocrat or could it have been a mere finger, hand or fist up said poopshoot? Or am I completely off base and is there a new term or action here that I am not really familiar with, not being too up on such matters lately?

Now if Muammar, (Moammar) actually been violated in the course manner which I so gingerly describe (which I apologize for), what does that say about the Libyan people? I hated that man so much I just had to pull my pants down and... Frankly I just don't get it. Spit in his face I could see, but screw a corpse? And you think that you can just waltz on in and join the rest of the civilized nations... Just goes to show the serious twain between east and west, once so ably described by Rudyard Kipling. The big ugly culture schism once again rears its ugly head.

Not content to rob the tyrannical dictator of any semblence of dignity in his final repose,  it is reported that he also lost his hairpiece, perhaps during the violent act of flagrant delicti. And that old Muammar had hair plugs to boot. Vanity, thy name is woman. I ask you, who knew?

My Momma Never Taught Me how to Cook

Day Five

We said goodbye to our gracious host and threw our gear in the back of the rent a car. It was already light out this particular morning. I wasn't going to push it. We had driven over 900 miles in the parks and had explored a lot of hidden nooks and crannies. Today we could chill a bit. Leslie and I drove into Jackson and found a great little restaurant to have breakfast at called E.leaven. This little restaurant sitting square in the northern rockies had maybe the best huevos rancheros I have ever tasted. Served on a crispy tortilla, the beans, eggs, green sauce and mexican cheese just nailed it.

We finished our breakfast and drank the excellent coffee. I read the local paper. A lot of people pissed off at antiquated laws that allow an elk hunt in the park and that tip the scales towards game and cows grazing on federal land and away from predators in the animal chain. Lots of rednecks and alpha hunters itching to kill wolves, because they can. Locals pissed off because they leave the elk guts on the side of the road and they attract bears and then bad things happen to the bears. The Moose - Wilson road had been closed down friday because bear 610, a five year old offspring of the famed grizzly bear 399, had a worrisome interaction with some cars, one of her two cubs bluff charging a vehicle. If people didn't do stupid things, there would be far less of these sorts of  encounters.

The weather started to cloud up and get a little funky. We were okay because we had seen everything we came to see and were so happy with our trip. Anything else would be gravy. It started to rain a little bit. We stopped in the Tetons one last time and hiked the trail at the base of the lupine meadows. We both noticed that there were not very many birds in the area the entire trip but saw a few magpies and chickadees. Leslie called to a bird and it flew into her hand like Doctor Doolittle. Neat trick.

We started driving the familiar road up north when Leslie suggested we check out the road to Signal Mountain. This is sort of an anonymous road that winds up a nice peak and affords fantastic views of the entire area. As we started up I noticed a nice marsh on our right, surrounded by tall trees. It really started to come down. We parked at the top, near a satellite tower and I walked a short distance down a hill. Looking south, I saw the most ethereal view of the whole trip, the Tetons shrouded in clouds, a small island in the foreground, the sun trying to break through and illuminate but not quite succeeding. I could not nail the shot. The clouds kept shutting me out. I tried three or four times traversing back to the car, wanting to give it one more shot. Unfortunately, this is the best I could do. But I will be back, I swear...



The view the other direction encompassed a large plain of mauve and red. I started thinking about the lines from the Donovan song, alizarean crimson...We heard sheep bleating nearby and elks bugling in the valley below. We waited and waited until I finally admitted my defeat and we took the steep route down off the mountain. We saw this grouse out of my side window, ruffling up its feathers.


We continued down the hill and I saw that the marshy meadow was now occupied by a moose and her calf, peacefully eating breakfast and cautiously checking the ether for signs of danger. It was so beautiful and secluded in the meadow and both my wife and I were very, very happy, to be so removed from the mundane and in the midst of such unsullied beauty.




We made our way back to Oxbow Bend one last time, hopefully to get shots of a flock of trumpeter swans.


We put the car in low and traversed a large mud puddle, making our way to the backside near Cattleman's Bridge, the old crossing point for livestock. The area was very muddy, the swans a bit out of range for my telephoto lens and my tennis shoes. I stepped down over a soggy shelf to try to get a better vantage when I stepped right into the fresh bear track, twice as big as my own. Now we had already seen three grizzlies, why did the one I could not see send such a chill down my spine? We met a local guide and her boyfriend and showed her the tracks and then quickly left the area.


Our next stop was down the rugged road towards Pilgrim Creek. Very out of the way, we saw some hunters and some huge trees that the bears had overturned.

We continued up through Yellowstone to our night's destination, the Yellowstone Snow Lodge, the only facility still open in the Park. In a few weeks it will only be accessible by snowmobile. We checked in and had a look at the namesake geyser.

The hotel is very nice, no televisions, beautiful rooms. My only complaint is that the walls are paper thin. We met great folks near the fireplaces and at dinner from Florida, Alberta and Michigan. I had duck with a maple glaze that was better than edible. Leslie had an elk burger that was delicious, it was. Before we went to bed we walked back out to the geyser to try to catch the last eruption but it was pitch black and we decided to come back and regroup in the morning. And so ends another day.

Faron Young

Monday, October 24, 2011

A.M.F.

Ex Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently told West Point cadets that the United States would be crazy to go to war in places like Iraq or Afghanistan ever again. We are pulling out of Iraq after a ten year stint and what have we received for all the blood and money?

A new Iranian proxy, we have exposed an age old rift between sunni and shia and left a country precariously close to a civil war. An islamic society sure to be less tolerant of women and more prone to theology than the previous dictator's regime. The kurds are sure to ultimately bear the worst of it, as usual. Why were we there again? Junior was upset over some slight to his father, or so I recall.

In Afghanistan, our hand picked man for the job has recently announced that he would back his nemesis, Pakistan in a war with the United States. Not that we should expect necessarily gratitude, but they appear to be sick of us too. Obama says that we will be out in three years. With the same mess we find in Iraq, I am sure.

We eventually found our way to Afghanistan because they were hosting those people like Omar and the rest of the Al Qaeda and Taliban jihadis who flew our planes into the twin towers and the pentagon. But what exactly have we done there besides install a corrupt regime, complicit in a variety of corruption and the opium trade?

They hate us too, maybe even worse than the Iraqis. Did we not make a mistake by not just coming in and wasting terrorists without mercy or the promise of reformation, rather than even attempting with this "nation building" stuff. Would have been quicker and cheaper to just kill a whole mess of those evil bastards and forget about the whole notion of hearts and minds.

Of course the whole region is set to become the world's next tinderbox, with Pakistan courting the Chinese and the U.S. bringing in the Indians as an Afghani suitor. The Indians and the Chinese are not exactly friends and India is now a vital cog with a magnified strategic and dare I say nuclear presence. I would have bet that Taiwan / China was the next powderkeg but the mid east is shaping up quite nicely.

It is so weird how alliances change, in much of my life, India was practically a Russian satellite. Now they are our BFF. Got to keep checking the scorecard. Now we are out of Iraq. Countless soldiers killed, countless civilians killed and nothing gained whatsoever.

Smart Patrol / Mr. DNA

Devo

Notes from Chairman Warren

Flutterby © Robert Sommers
Warren Bishop, the grand poobah of Main St., the genius ex trader/wise guy from back in Canarsie who now holds regular court at Primo with his minions and attendant flock sends me his stream of consciousness word flow every once in a while - occasionally things hit home. Warren is much more doctrinaire in his positioning than I think I am and his views are not necessarily my own.

*

"I always felt who ever owns the actual and approved vocabulary controls the debate......The sole word Terrorism immediately precludes any true debate or critical analysis of 9/11 and is a literal Shibbolith that sanctions every thing from shredding the Bill of Rights to murdering people 10,000 miles away who upon even the most cursory examination have no military capacity except IEDs and K47s."


*


we certainly did.......try.. .....Kesselschlacht......Terror Bombing......and with 500,000/1,000,000
Dead  Holocaust......as to shock and Awe i would hope it's "surgical precision attrition"
never hits your home and family.......I think a further indication of the moral depths we have sunk to as a country is that football announcers now regularly use the phrase "Shock and Awe"in their game commentary.........and we can now add as the unique contribution of our Nobel Prize President......Video Game Dronning......sit at Langley and look at your screen.....click the button and commit 1st degree murder.....very clearly defined in any Law Dictionary.....1984 with definition of "News Speak" and simultaneous wars on government TV monitors has an eerie echo.......reporters before they become government stenographers should rethink very care fully their articles...


*


Glad to have you back.....the Nation article on Somalia is excellent reporting.....Terrorism based on the non permitted analysis of "Blow Back" creates the *** of terror" to really gratuitously literally murder purported threats any where in the world......After $10s of trillions of weapons and troops in 135 countries the 300 million people in our country are in a state of heightened anxiety .....from an enemy with literally no military capability ....."Pravda" cited 3 men boarding a plane in Pakistan to travel to the US.......No one asks that how conceivably under  the former we are "less secure"than we have ever been as a nation.....our brutal policies.....one of many examples such as El Salvador"is nor simple to exacerbate but literally foster brutality .....in Somalia we have "allied" Bar Mitzvah age kids with AK47s ....

*
"it's the economy stupid".....but unfortunately much more.....Heath care is a Rube Goldberg fiasco and there are still 50,000,000 with no coverage add and those who hate it.....as an Anti War President....Bush Tax cuts will be for ever and not many...except Warren Buffet a large number simply want to see to see them repealed......he totally alienated the Progressives even though and they have no one to blame but them selves.....the Liberals will have nothing but there bull shit argument...."look what the alternative is"....will not work this time....if it is Perry he will beat him badly.....forget Rachel Maddow and that bunch.....also the Black Caucus is disgusted with him.......the speech he will give next week will be a joke...keep in mind if the price of oil again bumps $100 a barrel ....the Bern. Easy $ policies are risking inflation in the commodity markets which is also dangerous....bought some ice cream yesterday....up 15%....


*



It's Perry's nomination to lose....as mentioned I felt Obama was history....Perry has the right sewed up and only needs to move over a bit and of course his political program is a disaster but so is the whole country and he is just too slippery to be  tripped up on Social Security/ Medi care issues.....Meadow and her media ilk  will be eating their hearts out.......Thomas Dewey was portrayed in 1949 as....." little man on top of the wedding cake" .....compared to a dynamic Harry Truman and that just about sums up Romney......Perry will eat Romney alive and much sooner than every one thinks....Perry will drive Maddow and her ilk up the wall....

*

Fun is just starting in Lybia....some one told me Blitzer....is he still around cut all programing to have hours and hours of this.....as is Maddow.....shows how crass these liberals are.....really who gives a damm about this net work manufactured event.....I have Dish this week and trying to see what I have missed....besides 22 minutes of commercials....I figured I would listen to the star of the "left.....Lawrence/Mcd....but he had a black women who is Princeton prof.......as a sub news host.....just unbelievable.....she said on the same day...." Lybia is gaining it's "freedom.....was the same that MLKing gave his speech and she linked him to Lybia.....it simply does not get worse than  this over educated ignoramus  not even knowing he was literally ostracized because....as you know ....His Riverside Chapel speech on Vietnam and foreign policy...then shot.. ....these Black bourgeois are the very worst.....Romney continues as top of Saturday Night Live performers and this year it is not easy.... Can the script writers ever have even imagined Romney saying..."I am also unemployed " to a group of working stiffs and then follow it up by building this La  Jolla mansion.... he has a screw loose....these people live in another universe.....which when you have $$$ 250 million ....you can afford!


.maybe the "Talking Heads"are just that.....stored in air conditions containers then  trotted out and simply screwed on to a torso.....from show to show......what an irony in that the USA with it's hard fought for First A/mend freedoms is subjected endlessly to such...One Dimensional prattle....which Marcuse identified as Repressive Tolerance"......or as James Agee characterized ........"Safe Fearlessness.........

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Run On - Blind Boys of Alabama

Day Four

Day four saw the Sommers once again waking in the pre dawn hours. I wanted first light shots of the Tetons. Leslie agreed to get up and wait with me for the sun to cast her rays across the jagged peaks. Now if you know my wife, you would know how much this act speaks for her love, fealty and character. She is by no means a morning person. Just like I am not a late night person, most evenings I can be found sprawled out snoring on the couch after nine o'clock. But for the second morning in a row my wife soldiered on and we found ourself at the Taggart Lake turnoff, sitting in the cold, rented Toyota, waiting for the sun to rise.

Now I should also add that I had not bothered to consult my ipad or any other means to ascertain the actual time of said sunrise, assuming that it would occur a little after six, the proper and decent time for such events. Unfortunately I had failed to calculate for latitude and the sun was not to breach the eastern horizon until about twenty after seven.

So while I am waiting in the chilly darkness, I would like to tell you a bit about my camera rig and camera philosophy in general. The cup holders in the front console held my 70/300mm Nikon 3.5 vr zoom and my Sigma 10/20mm wide angle lenses. The Nikon D40x usually had the 18/135mm in default position. Leslie was adept at lens switching when we sighted an animal or had to grab a wide panoramic shot, a process that entailed a counterintuitive turn of the bottom lens cover and a freeing of the lens cap and a slight twist of the bayonet mount.

My camera, the D40x, is considered a mere child's toy in photographic circles. It was eclipsed so long ago by the big megapixel jobbers that I am a bit embarrassed to pull it out in front of my photographic cohorts. I have two of these cameras. Why do I use them? A couple reasons. Number one, it is fabulously light, and two it is cheap and three, it is all I need. This camera still has far more functions, features and capabilities than I could ever hope to scratch. I like a light camera because I am always shooting and it never becomes a burden.

My father was an army photographer who transmitted the first atom bomb picture during the big war with his top security clearance. My first camera was my step father's twin lens Rollie. When I was 13 my dad gave me his army issue Zeiss Ikon Voightlander, later stolen from me in New York. My father always had a darkroom in his home and we developed our own black and white film, mostly pan-x and tri-x if I remember correctly. I loved printing but I hated winding spools, always afraid that I would kill a roll in my clumsiness.

When I went off to boarding school at Desert Sun in Idyllwild I took photography classes from a guy named Norwood Hazard, if my memory serves me correctly. We shot medium format Mamiyas and I got a little more comfortable. I developed a lifelong love for black and white photography, and an artistic aesthetic that even liked a bit of grain and could accept a flaw now and then.

In adulthood I somehow landed on another inexpensive camera, the Konica F2, an electronic camera. I had several and a huge flotilla of lenses, now completely useless. I brought this camera to Africa, when I had the money for travel and safaris, that lifetime ago. My father shot his trusted Hasseblad, I shot the cheap but light japanese camera. And please accept my lack of humility when I tell you that I shot rings round most of the people on the trip, including my pop, the professional photographer. I shot mostly slides to cibachrome or type R and need to digitize those slides one of these days because a few were epic.

Anyway in my opinion the most important thing in photography is knowing how to compose a picture. Forget expensive glass, forget expensive gear, technical perfection and perfect exposure, make a little square with your hands and learn how to frame. (By the way, the Konica met an unfortunate death. It was in a backpack with a half gallon of water, at a Grateful Dead concert in Sacramento, when the lid somehow popped off the water and fried its electronic innards.) Maybe it my own personal choice but even in my career as an art salesman and broker, in my evaluations I always rate what an image "says" over any apparent imperfections it might have.

I still have a problem calling myself a photographer, more like an ersatz artist masquerading as a photographer, because I don't really adhere to the popular shibboleths of the trade. Tough to admit, and I have had five or six solo shows of my work, but it is what it is. Unless I need a radical depth of field, I shoot a lot on automatic, sans flash. Occasionally I will switch to aperture priority or a program setting. If I am feeling religious or guilt ridden about being a mere point and shootist I will sometimes get my automatic exposure setting and then put the camera in manual mode and bracket a little bit. The problem is that the cameras do such a remarkable job of automatically exposing these days that I find that when I act like a luddite, I sometimes completely miss shots futzing around with the gear. The important thing is the finished image and I can do a lot in post production to deliver my vision of the photographic event. I print my own pictures because I don't want to let someone else make my artistic judgements for me and there are always a million of them.

Now many of my camera brethren are on the manual setting all the time and I maybe would like to be like them when or if, I ever grow up. I was hunting around for a medium format Mamiya or Fuji to take on the trio but couldn't afford it. Because the reality is that film is still where it is at. Pixels suck. Film is rich and lush and in the final analysis there is no comparison. Look at Thomas Sauerwein's work in the upcoming show. Breathtaking. It is sort of like the vinyl, digital debate in music. Vinyl wins hands down. Zeros and ones to the nth power, something vital and organic still slips through the cracks. Having said that, there is an ego trip about film that is also sort of laughable. I was on an eight hour trip up a mountain and back at the Wave in Utah and saw germans lugging heavy 8 x 10 large formats up the arduous trail. I will take a thousand pictures for every ten of theirs and I think that I will be able to match or exceed their "win rate" every time. Saw some 8 x 10 guys at the Snow Lodge this trip as well, god bless them. Would love to play around with them but they are just not practical if you shoot as much as I do.


So I will continue to lug around a kid's camera, knowing in my heart that with a good eye and a decent lens, everything will be just fine. Everything on the market is so good in the digital world nowadays that there is little need for techno envy, for justifying the newest and extremely expensive outfit, especially when the new camera weighs around five lbs. and has so many possible adjustments that you need a masters degree to get through the manual.

The other conceit is that everything must be shot in raw format. I shot a portion of the trip in a raw/jpeg combination, took up an enormous amount of disk space. I am going to develop the stuff soon and see if there is much of a difference in total picture quality. I still have a hell of a lot to learn and will hopefully keep learning until the end of my days.


So here I am, back in the red Toyota, the one whose color just screams rent a car. We snap our pictures of the peaks and then go back up towards Oxbow Bend, driving by the Church of Perpetual Indignation, or something like that, a little church stuck in the woods. We had shared our flight with a great couple from Dallas whose daughter was getting married in the chapel that morning.

A ranger is at Oxbow Bend and tells us that it is the finest morning he has ever seen for reflections in the river. A V of geese flies across our path, right to left. An Idaho man, about 20 years younger than I, is in a wheelchair on the bank, taking pictures with his girlfriend. He has apparently recently lost his feet and they are bundled and bandaged. I loaned him my wide angle and enjoyed our brief conversation.

We swung down to Colter Bay, a little cove that Terry S. and Jan said that we had to check out. We walked down to the water and felt the presence of bears at the deserted stop. We pretty much stopped at every possible stop in the two parks the entire trip, trying to leave no road uncovered. No turn unstoned? I wish.

We continued back into Yellowstone, the 75 mile commute from Jackson now becoming familiar and old hat. And always magnificent. We would drive the northern upper loop today, to Mammoth Hot Springs and east into the Lamar Valley. The Canyon to Tower road is now closed for the year on account of excessive snow at the Dunraven Pass so we will take the longer route and see where it leads us.


We were ambling north in the morning, I think somewhere near Big Thumb Creek when we spotted a car or two parked off the road. We slowed and saw what our fellow visitors were admiring, a huge adult male grizzly to our left, on the side of the road, digging for grubs and insects, his huge claws easily cultivating the earth. I imagine that we were about 60 yards from the bear. A young ranger showed up and made us retreat to a bit more sensible position.  We watched the bear, who seemed quite unconcerned with us, for over forty five minutes. I showed his picture to an experienced guide who said that he was a huge bear and probably weighed in at eight to nine hundred pounds. Leslie and I had watched a video of a man who had survived a bear attack and watched a grizzly cover 90 yards in the blink of an eye. They can chase down an elk. I am glad that we were not the objects of his ire. He sort  of reminded me of an oversized gorilla. Huge arms and legs, the size of a tree trunk and a beautiful silver back.

We continued on to Biscuit Basin and walked around the geysers, fumaroles and steaming ponds. Leslie loves this topography so much. We got to the trailhead for Mystic Falls but decided not to make the trek, not wanting to make the trek without bear spray. Plus, my feet ached. I had thrown my hiking boots in my suitcase without ever actually trying them on and had forgotten how much they hurt my right heel.

We made our way up to the northern regions of the park, Mammoth Hot Springs had a fair amount of tourists hanging around checking out the large elk roaming around the buildings. I wanted to get away from humans so after a quick trip to the john and the store we made our way east to Roosevelt and the Lamar Valley.


The topography of the park changes completely in the northeast area. Huge valleys and plateaus. We saw many large herds of bison, a few pronghorn and elk. We turned down the road for Slough Creek, an are where my friend Kerry thought I might see wolves. No wolves, one emaciated coyote. It was great to be out on the plains. We drove south on the Tower Road until we were blocked. Another reason to come back and visit the park again. There was some very interesting rock formation and geology in this area, and the yellow colored dirt and rock that gave the place its name.

We drove around Yellowstone Lake once more and stopped at the Excelsior and Grand Prismatic pools, the largest thermal features in the whole park they were once known as Colter's "Hell's half acre." This pool and geyser group was amazing because the whole area shrouded in mist and completely obscured people right in front of your eyes.

The pools themselves are a plethora of color and texture. The colors are produced by microbes that can thrive in the up to 200 degree water. They are called biological mats and are being carefully harvested now for science and medicine.



We went back to Jackson. We had been thinking about the elk chops at the Gun Barrel all week and had to go back and have them again. I had a mixed game platter with elk, buffalo prime rib and the venison wurst. Les had the elk chops. Even the vegetables were great this time and we met a nice couple from Chicago at the next table. We found our way back to the lovely house on the hill and snuggled under the warm and toasty blankets, waiting with glee to arise the next morning for another chapter in our grand getaway.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Padres ownership are a bunch of nogoodniks

I have written several times about the fishy relationship between Padres brass and the Boston Red Sox. Something about the Adrian Gonzalez trade for pretty much nothing earlier this year did not pass the smell check. Now the Red Sox GM Theo Epstein resigns to join up with his pal Padres G.M. Jed Hoyer with the Cubs.

Interesting article in the Boston Herald today. Obviously other people elsewhere see that something is up to no good as well.  These allegations of chicanery and a setup with the Gonzales giveaway need to be investigated by major league baseball.

Jeff Moorad and his obviously underfunded absentee ownership group are in the process of decimating a franchise that was one win from winning the division last year. Now it is a wreck. But the slick owner is making the second highest profit in baseball, at least according to Forbes magazine.

Moorad makes Frank McCourt look like Abner Doubleday. Either petition the league to become a triple a farm club so you can keep giving away our best talent to your boy toys or sell the team, Jeff. You have destroyed a once proud franchise.

Friday, October 21, 2011

I Only Have Eyes For You

Day three

Leslie and I woke up in the darkness. My cough wasn't getting any better and she thought we had better do something. We found a local Walmart on the new ipad and it was one of those supercenters that is open all night. We got back into our car in the cold pre dawn hour and made our way to the cavernous megastore.

Walmart is one of my favorite places for people watching but Leslie sort of ixnayed my thoughts about bringing my camera inside to capture the local fauna. The people that work there were not exactly beaten down, maybe a better characterization would be just accepting of the bottom rung that life had left them on its ladder. Certain employees might have had a hard time functioning in the world at large but Walmart gave them a wonderful opportunity to have a job that fit their particular skill set. A great way for Americans to send their money back to China, with maybe a few stops in between in the deep south.

We got our cough syrup and a new 4 gig sdcard for the nikon. Got searched on the way out by the old guy that thought we might have a stolen cd in the bottom of our sack. Eventually we made our way back to downtown Cody. The Irma, Buffalo Bill's Hotel and named for his daughter, was as quaint and charming as ever. Marlboro men, hunters and packer types, all with their wrangler jeans and idiosyncratic style of baseball caps all chowed down under the ornate tin ceiling. With their butch swagger these guys would have fit in perfectly fine down on Christopher Street. Our waitress had a long beautiful mane and all the personality of a fence post, having heard it all and seen it all before. I read the local paper; a fisherman had disappeared on a local river fork, his car and possessions waiting on the bank for him never to return. Would have to bet that you have to score another one for the local grizzly bear population, the ursidae knocking out the humans at a record rate this year. We would try our utmost not to become a statistic. And we stayed on our toes the entire week. The pancakes and food at the Irma didn't quite match up to memory but I suppose even Buffalo Bill can have an off day now and then.


After checking out of the hotel we drove over to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, the object of the whole side trip. The Museum is in reality a combination of six museums, the Whitney Gallery of Western Art, the Plains Indian Museum, Buffalo Bill Museum, Remington Gun Museum and the Draper Museum of Natural History. The latter was built since my last visit. The Whitney is a fantastic museum, with Remington's studio on display. The last time I was there W.H.D. Koerner's studio was also displayed and I missed it this trip. The museum has marvelous canvasses by Bierstadt and Moran, N.C. Wyeth and Alexander Proctor and reaches into the present with work by people like Bill Schenck and William Matthews. Joseph Henry Sharp's cabin is now set up in the garden. If you love American and western art, find a reason to visit this museum.

I found the Plains Indian Museum equally compelling and visually stimulating. War bonnets, parfleches, beadwork and every other conceivable article from the wonderful northern tribes. I read a beautiful chant from a Fox warrior about facing danger and death.

The gun museum wasn't really my thing. The Draper is in a beautiful building, some of the dioramas and layout were substandard but it was interesting from an educational standpoint.  We spent about four or five hours at the facility and it is highly recommended. Great exhibit on old time cowboy and cowgirl apparel and finery.



We drove back on the scenic highway 20. It would be a long commute back to our home base in Jackson. The day was sunny and the midday sky was beautiful. We passed this packer on the side of the road.  One thing we found was that every day was special and with the different light, every day was different. We could even notice the differences in the trees day by day.

What I hadn't figured was that most of yesterday's snow in the pass had now melted and all those beautiful shots I had planned to take were now gone with the wind. Sylvan Lake had completely changed its character. You have to shoot it when you see it.






We drove around the gorgeous and expansive Yellowstone Lake, the largest lake at altitude in the lower 48. We saw this gent painting on the shoreline and stopped to take a picture. A bald eagle soared overhead.

We stopped at Lewis Falls on the way back to take a short walk and stretch our legs. It is like a scene from the movie"How the west was won" or an old Hamm's Beer commercial.


Somewhere along the way we saw this coyote hunting and catching himself a snack. He was magnificent with a bushy tail and thick coat. We saw an emaciated coyote later on in the Lamar Valley and know that this guy was living the high life. Wondered if he could be a wolf as he was so much bigger than the other guy but I think that his ears are too pointy. Maybe a vulcan wolf?



We followed the Snake River back past the Tetons and of course had to stop a half dozen times to take pictures again. The view to the left with the long shelf reminded me of a painting by Maynard Dixon.

The tetons were starting to catch the last rays of the evening sun and were on their way to their own Maxfield Parrish impression.  To the east the Gros Ventre refused to be left out of the dance.

I think that it is impossible for any artist, photographer or simple lover of nature not to be transfixed by the immortal beauty of these peaks. I had to stop every time I drove by the jagged mountains.

We got back to Jackson in darkness and set out for a bite to eat. We walked around the square and looked at windows and menus and finally settled on a place called Trio. Trio is an award winning restaurant started by a couple chefs who used to work nearby at the Snake River Grill.

Any how we walk in and the attractive hostess engages us in a conversation that goes something like this: Two please. Do you have a reservation? Do we need one? On a friday night at 6:30 you are asking me if you need a reservation. Are you kidding? Okay, we'll go somewhere else. Thanks. I didn't tell you I wouldn't seat you. This way please. 


We sort of walked behind her shaking our heads, not sure why we needed the rather public and pointless lesson. The menu was interesting and we ordered appetizers. I had a nice salad that was comprised of pears, endive, candied walnuts, point reyes bleu cheese and a honey walnut vinaigrette. Leslie had a marvelous and beautifully presented plate of Smoked Trout and Beets made up of roasted beets, micro greens, herbed goat cheese and a toasted pumpkin seed vinaigrette. It was just amazing, both to the palette and visually. If I could figure out how to get the pictures of her phone I would post a picture.

I had a glass of the fleur de carneros pinot noir. Leslie had one of their magical cocktails, an agave margarita I think. We ordered our entrees off the adventurous menu. I had a truffled calzone made with house-made truffled ricotta, sautéed spinach, parmesan and shaved crimini mushrooms. Leslie had the Elk Bolognese, braised north american elk, pappardelle pasta and parmesan reggiano.

I loved my calzone. The luscious truffle smell overpowered the table. Crust was perfect and I am a miserable whiner about such things. Asked for and received a bit of crushed red pepper and I was set. Could have used a touch more garlic but why be picky? Leslie's pappardelle was less great, decent but a bit chintzy with the game. About fifteen minutes into our entree she mentioned to our server that she had never received the second drink she had ordered, a kumquat margarita. The server said that they were out of kumquats. Les said "Fair enough, I had said that if they were out to bring me a blood orange margarita." Could they not have informed us? It was then that an icy wall clanged down between the staff and the customer. The tall waiter tossed his blow dryed hair back and we were dismissed for speaking up. We were treated diffidently for the rest of our evening and ended up skipping dessert and getting the hell out of there.

Which leads me to my topic de jour. Leslie worked in a great french restaurant, I have eaten in good restaurants since childhood. One would think that restaurants would try to please their customers, to give them common courtesy and the benefit of the doubt in close calls, to try to make them happy if they are not complete assholes. However what I have found is that in very trendy spots and chi chi upscale joints, the inverse is often true, the customer is expected to toe the line and submit to the kind of crap and punishment that we ultimately had to dodge with the hostess and the wait staff. Fine dining should not have to be an exercise in S&M. We are so precious and you are so lucky to be eating at our establishment that we will see how much crap we can dish out before you either piss all over yourself or leave in the remote chance that you still have any self respect.


Trio was good, so good in fact that I would love to go back. It would be even better without the bit of attitude.