Sunday, February 26, 2006

Chair Detail

I took over 100 pictures today. My digital workflow process edits out the blurry and poorly composed photos. This took me from 100 photos down 50. Of those that remained, I like exactly ZERO – not counting a few of my son that is. I don’t know what I was doing wrong, but I must not have been thinking about composition. They were all… bad.

I chose this photo because I took it to answer a question. I want to know what the name of this pattern is. Anybody, anybody?

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Saturday, February 25, 2006


Would you buy a Reggae album from this man? I did. Matisyahu, LIVE at STUBB’s. It just might be the best new Reggae album I have purchased in years. I’ve heard his hit “King Without A Crown” on KROQ a few times over the last few months. Then, my friend Kenny caught him at the Bob Marley day festival in Long Beach last weekend. Kenny told me Matisyahu lit the place up. Trust me, Kenny the reggae god rarely gives such good praise.

His label's website carries the following quote by Joan Anderman, of the Boston Globe:

“It's not overstating the case to say that Matisyahu is an original. The visual package is startling: Picture a young man in traditional payos (side curls), black hat, and long beard grabbing the mike and going off in front of a crowd at New York's hip Mercury Lounge, or the Knitting Factory, or Southpaw -- all rooms that Matisyahu has sold out. He is a man on a mission. And a man with a message.”

Matisyahu is not new to the Reggae scene. He’s been playing for years. It shows in his music, and it shows in his stage presence. LIVE at STUBB’s has video tracts. I was hypnotized. I bought it today. I’ve listened to in a few times already. This guy is good.

His music is mystical and religious – yet this atheist draws inspiration from it. Don’t ask my why, I don’t really care that he sings about God. I find myself carried away by his music and enriched by his message. His song "Aish Tamid" is unbelievable.

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The Son of Tarzan

When I was a child, I possessed a set of all 24 Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan novels. The books were the original hardback editions from the early 20th century. I read each book at least a dozen times. My favorite was The Son of Tarzan - because I too dreamed of re-uniting with my father when I was a child. It never happened, but at least I had my books to keep me going.

The books came into my possession when my uncle threw them in the garbage when he moved out of his mother’s house in the 60’s. My mom fished them out and gave them to me. Unfortunately, my uncle talked me into returning them to his possession when I was in my 20’s. He told me that he wanted his son to enjoy them as I had. I have since come to understand he probably thought the books were valuable. Of course, they were not; my guess is maybe $2 to $3 dollars each. The sentimental value was quite high.

I expected to have the books returned to my so that my sons could enjoy them. However, this was not to be. The books were destroyed when a water pipe burst at my uncle’s home. He had stored them in his garage for many years. His son never read them.

The funny thing is that 20 years later my uncle asked me if I had kept one of the books, the first in the series, Tarzan of the Apes. It was then I realize he was interested only in the value. I had not kept the book and I certainly had not sold it as he had suggested. I have only sold one book in my life (not counting textbooks) a mint condition first edition of Shakespeare’s Tragedy of Othello published in the 1860’s. I had purchased it at a garage sale for a quarter.

I found an Ace paperback edition of the Son of Tarzan at a flea market a few weeks ago. It has a Frank Frazetta cover (pictured above) and internal illustrations. It will make a nice addition to my Burroughs collection. I’ll read it too – even though the book is available free online. My paperback edition cost $2. I arranged to buy the remaining books for $40 next month when I return to the Pasadena flee market. I can’t wait untill the second Sunday in March.

Tarzan's son is named Korak. It means "The Killer" in the language of the Great Apes. The name of Tarzan's son is also a Trivial Pursuit question from the original edition. I once won a large competition just because I knew this useless Tarzan fact.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

My obligation

I was standing in line at the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles Thursday afternoon. I was waiting to pick up a visa for a trip I have scheduled for early March. I mind my own business in most situations. I read a book while waiting and did some people watching. As I neared the end of the line, a man stepped in front of me. I would not have noticed except that he stepped into my personal space. I asked politely what he was doing, he responded that he was in a hurry and did not want to wait in the line. As he uttered the phrase, the line erupted in loud Chinese. The line cutter looked sheepish and walked out of the room. I was happy until I realized that I was now exposed to conversation with strangers because of the confrontation. Now, I can talk the weather with the best of them – but I try to avoid politics and religion unless I know a person quite well. I knew I was in trouble when the elderly Chinese man in front of me asked if I knew that China is full of godless atheists. He spoke without waiting for my response. He started lecturing me on the evils of Communism and Atheism. A few other people in line chimed in with their opinions. At one point, the elderly Chinese man gave me his card and said “if you are going to China, I will give you bibles that you can leave in your hotel and other public places. I thought – “well, that’s not going to happen” as he walked to the window ahead of me.

My transaction at the pickup window took just a few minutes. I wanted to leave quickly so I could get out of downtown LA before rush hour. I should have known that the elderly Chinese man would be waiting for me on the street outside the visa office. The thing that killed me, I mean the thing that really just got under my skin, was that I really did not talk to anyone while in the visa office. Yet, my silence was viewed as acceptance by those who talked to me. The elderly Chinese man introduced himself as Pastor Chuck. He actually wanted me to bring bibles to China, he was excited by the idea. I finally told him that I would not do it because I am an atheist myself. His family gasped and moved behind him. Pastor Chuck became angry. He grabbed me by the shoulders and looked me in the eye (he got in my personal space too). Pastor Chuck said “You are an American, it is your obligation to spread Christianity and Democracy to other countries.” As happens a lot when confronted with stupidity, I was struck dumb. I had no response, so I walked away. I have a response now though – Obligation my ass.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Mr. Snakey is full of mice

My snake woke up from his winter hibernation a week or so ago. I warmed him up and gave him plenty of water in preparation for his first feeding of the New Year. I meant to feed him yesterday, but missed due to Valentine obligations and wine. My wife picked up the slack today. Of course, she paid the price. Mr. Snakey was very hungry. He lunged for the feeding box – it scared the crap out of her. I miss all the fun.

Mr. Snakey is four years old now - about five feet long and 2.5 inches in diameter. He's a biter, if he were venomous, I would be dead a dozen times already.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A picture of a good friend

I took this a few days ago while at lunch in the park. He's a good friend and a great subject for my lens. Oh the stories I could tell - but I won't.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Marley grows on you

Every year around this time, I grow nostalgic for Bob Marley’s music. It is unavoidable. Long Beach hosts the Bob Marley Day Festival year year. Its advertising is everywhere. I hear more reggae on the radio because stations tend to play it out of respect for Marley and to promote the upcoming festival. And… February is the month of my birth, so I end up playing a lot of Marley as I reflect on the previous year.

In my opinion, Bob Marley may have been the best musician of my generation. I regret that I did not see him live in the 70’s. I had several opportunities, but back in the day, reggae was not on my radar. I preferred Led Zeppelin and Boston to Marley at the time; What was I thinking?.

I made up for it in 99. I was living in France while working on a large technology project. One weekend I was riding the Metro with a few of my co-workers while in search of good Irish Pub. As I pulled into a Metro station near the Pigalle I heard Marley’s Slave Driver booming load and clear. It was almost as if somebody had turned on a boom box. I looked around and eventually located the source of the music. A man stood in an alcove with an amp, an electric guitar, a PA and a mic. He was singing his heart out. The music felt like Bob Marley, it was rich, melodic, and real. Without a word, I jumped off the Metro as it started to pull away from the station. My friends thought I had gone crazy, but I did not care. I did what I felt compelled to do and had no regrets.

I stood across the subway platform from this ragged Rastafarian and listened while he played a dozen wonderful songs. It was magic. I was one of the only people who paid him any attention. When he finished his set, I walked around to his alcove to give him some money. He refused my offer of cash and instead we shared a candy bar together while we talked about Bob Marley. We spoke for a few minutes, it was wonderful. I never learned his name; I never heard him or anyone like him again. However, to this day, this Bob Marley memory remains one of the most poignant memories I have of a long lonely year spent in France.

I am often asked about the race of man who played music for me that day. I never really understand why people ask me this. His race was unimportant – as race should be. He was neither distinctly black nor distinctly white, I did not waste time trying to guess. It just did not matter. He was a man, a person much like me, who loved Bob Marley and played his music as if possessed.

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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Kofi Annan gets it wrong - again

Kofi Annan spoke out against the free press on Thrusday. His message, Freedom of Speech Carries Responsibility, however the subtext was "don't piss off Muslims", which sounds a lot like appeasement to me.

Annan said, “It is insensitive, it is offensive, it is provocative, and they should see what has happened around the world”, he added the caveat “I am not against freedom of press”. However, the reality is – he words are carrying the meaning that we should not publish something that might offend others. I hate to use the slippery slop argument, but if we cannot satirize Mohammad today, do we stop satirizing the UN tomorrow?

Annan also missed the whole concept of democracy in his attack on freedom of the press. In a democracy, every citizen has the right to draw a cartoon or otherwise criticize any issue under the sun. If I want to say that perhaps Islam and the person who founded the religion prefer to resolve important issues with bombs and guns, then, it is my right to do so.

One other thing – drawing or depicting Mohammad may be a mortal sin in Islam, to a non-Muslim, it means nothing. To an atheist like me, well it makes me scratch my head.

See the cartoons for yourself here.

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

A tale of gay penguins

It seems that Germany has a pair of Gay penguins. Nothing Zoo Boss Heike Zueck can come up with will resolve the situation. Gay activist group have rallied to protest Zueck’s effort to turn the pair hetro. The eyes of the world are watching… It’s all so absurd. Penguins cannot be gay or straight, they are just animals. It is easy to attribute human forms or qualities to pets and animals; there is a word for this – Anthropomorphism. My dog Thor will dog hump anything that walks or craws, even stuffed animals if the mood takes him. Is Thor gay? Nope, he is just a dog exhibiting normal sexual behavior.

From what I understand, after watching a few thousand-nature documentaries, this type of behavior is as natural in the wild as it is in human society. The problem is – no matter whom these penguins have selected as their mate – they still need to breed for their race to survive in captivity. It should be ok to breed them without activist groups getting upset - it is not about being gay.

Do I have a point? yep - penquins are not people. Quit trying to treat them like anything other than animals - Ah... gay animals I mean.

On the lighter side – my wife tipped me off to this story via an email but did not provide the url with her message. I agonized over typing “Gay Penguin” in Google while at work out of fear that corporate security would catch my query and demand an explanation. I visualized my response – it was not a pretty picture.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

I hate this tree

When this tree blooms, my head hurts. This tree started blooming a week ago. I want to burn them all to the ground. Did I mention there are millions of these things?

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A near perfect burn

I could not smoke today - my allergies are killing me with all the pollen and smoke in the air today. I donated a cigar to my good friend Jeff and took pictures instead.

My new lens is hard to use. I kicked it up a notch with this purchase - I need to practice. I'm glad I’m digital now.

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Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Buchenwald Gallows

I sit tonight in the silence of my home drinking Courvoisier while scanning pictures of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. I cannot stop thinking about what it must have been like to see this horror first hand. The scars it would have left on my grandfather’s soul would have been indelible. This picture disturbs me more than most. It is a gallows with hooks for 6 people. The Nazis killed 6 people at time. It is hard to imagine.

I am making and educated guess at the location of this photo, The Buchenwald Gallows. If anyone out there has better information, please pass it on.

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German 88

This is another photograph from my family history project. The caption says this is a German 88 artillery piece, circa 1945.

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I got a new toy

...a Nikkor 105mm Macro lens for my Nikon D70. I was going to purchase a less expensive Sigma, but my friend Kenny talked some sense into me. This lens rocks!

I took this picture in my front yard from a Bird-Of-Paradise growing in the shade of my magnolia tree. I shot a few camellias because my bushes are starting to bloom. But, the colors were washed out because I was shooting at noon.

For all my friends on the East Coast and in the Mid West, it’s Spring here in Los Angeles. The flowers are in full bloom.

I’ve wanted a good macro lens for a long time. I used to collect and sell textures as part of a sampler CD back in the early 90s. I’ve been meaning to get back into the business becasue I shoot so many pictures. My first few shots are encouraging.

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Saturday, February 04, 2006

My grandfather never talked about the war

My grandfather passed in the mid 90's. Before he died, we would talk about his time in World War II. He would never give details, except for the French “war wife” thing. All he would ever tell me was which battles he participated in, which cities he visited, and who his friends were. He never told me if he killed anyone. He never told me about his friends who had died. He would only say that war was ugly, and that I should avoid it.

I know he landed at Normandy. I know he liberated Paris and then moved on to liberate Germany. I had a chance to follow his campaign maps when I was living in France a few years ago. I visited many of the places he had been. Auschwitz was on the map, I did not get a chance to see it.

His wife passed a few months ago. After her death, I started a family history project aimed at gathering various pictures and documents pertaining to our family history and digitizing them. I intend to produce DVD copies for my family; only, the DVD is going to take a long time to produce. My first batch of pictures came from my grandfather’s briefcase; his war pictures. I had never seen them before.

I came across this picture while sorting through some loose pictures. I realized that I was looking at a man (not my Grandfather) in front of a death camp crematorium, while holding a tray of teeth. There are other pictures, some quite disturbing, like a gallows with a stack of cordwood in the background. I understand why my grandfather would have kept these things to himself.

I’ll publish more photos as I go.

*** Update ***
This photo appreas to be of the Buchenwald Crematorium Ovens

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