Thursday, February 26, 2004

The Tech

A favorite place to visit, also has great colors and textures when I'm looking for a backdrop to photograph.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004


In the words of Prince...
I just can't believe all the things people say -- Controversy
Am I black or white? Am I straight or gay? -- Controversy
Do I believe in God? Do I believe in me? -- Controversy
Controversy Controversy
I can't understand human curiosity -- Controversy
Was it good for you? Was I what you wanted me to be? -- Controversy
Do you get high? Does your daddy cry? -- Controversy
Controversy Controversy
My morning blogrounds found controversy wherever I looked.

First of all, a constitutional ban on gay marriage, which Josh Marshall had a good take on this morning. It seems to me that enshrining discrimination in the constitution is something our country should have grown beyond somewhere around the time of the abolition of slavery.

AC Douglas gives his perspective in an archived post concerning The Passion of the Christ. I differ with him on his basic premise, "It seems further clear to me that in the absence of any reliable historical evidence to the contrary, one ought to provisionally accept the reports of these writers as being essentially (as opposed to in every small detail) true no matter how inconvenient such acceptance may be." Oddly enough in his own footnote to the piece he undercuts this premise, writing "The Gospels were also in some measure addressed to the Roman powers that were, but on political grounds; ergo, the largely sympathetic to the Romans treatment of the story involving the cruel and ruthless Pilate, and his historically thoroughly implausible reluctance to find Jesus, a Jew, guilty of any crime." History does tell us certain things about the number of Jews crucified by Pilate, about the politics of the time, and about, as Mr. Douglas states himself, the need for the Gospel writers to curry favor with the Roman authorities. These items in themselves cast a certain amount of doubt on the historical accuracy of the Gospels. Add to that the license that Gibson takes in using scenes concocted centuries later in a 19th century book of visions, "The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ," by Anne Catherine Emmerich, a German nun and mystic. has a very nice piece today outlining the historical accuracy of the film and the Gospels, here.

And finally, a blogging controversy continues to rage at About Last Night. Terry Teachout defends himself against Bookslut on the issue of link poaching and link crediting. I've read both of their pieces and I certainly come down on Terry's side of the argument. As a still relatively new blogger links are my bread and butter. Sharing them and hopefully getting a few back. If I didn't care if people read my blog, I'd keep a personal diary, but I blog to share my thoughts with a wider group of people, and links are how that happens. No blog (except maybe Instapundit) sprung to life fully grown like Athena from Zeus' head. Terry's call for community is a far cry from, "Mr. Teachout declaring himself the police of blogging etiquette," as Bookslut states.

Why can't we all just get along.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Black and White Cinema - a Primer

Michael Blowhard waxes, at length, on the virtues of Black and White Cinema. I can hardly argue with a word that he says, and can only point you, gentle reader, in his general direction. Especially if you are of the younger generation who may not have grown up with a taste for black and white, he may just convince you to give it a chance.

He ends this discussion with a call for recommendations of great films to introduce young people to the joys of black and white film. So here is my list of great movies to look out for on Turner Classic or AMC, or potentially to rent or purchase. (with bullets, just to stay with the trend).

  • Touch of Evil - Orson Welles, amazing camera angles, the longest pan shot ever (at that time), wonderful shadows, and some very odd casting
  • Frankenstein - James Whale's horror classic. I couldn't imagine this movie in color
  • Grapes of Wrath - in fact I could list a number of classic John Ford films, but this is one of my favorites
  • The Maltese Falcon - John Huston's classic noir has it all, mood, great acting, smart plot, humor
  • The Philadelphia Story - Hepburn and Cary Grant. Silky and smooth. These two always go down like a well chilled martini
  • Arsenic and Old Lace - Frank Capra's film of the classic stage play. Had to pick a Capra, this just happens to be my favorite
  • To Be or Not to Be - Another classic comedy. Ernst Lubitsch directs Jack Benny and Carole Lombard in this wartime gem. (Remade by Mel Brooks in 1983)

Michael beat me to It Happened One Night, or that would be on my list as well. I've focused on classics before 1950, as these are the movies I grew up on and loved the most as a child, but there are some great films after that time that make excellent use of black and white film. Psycho, Raging Bull, Lenny, A Streetcar Named Desire, just to name a few worth watching.

Read the whole thing here.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Why I Miss Vinyl

I wouldn't call myself an audiophile. I have a pretty run of the mill stereo system. My ear, dulled by years of concert going, cannot discern the difference between the warm analog tones of vinyl in comparison to CDs, and in spite of Neil Young's statement that "MP3 is dog", I enjoy the convenience of my iTunes playlists, and am considering an iPod. But what I miss about vinyl is the structure it imposed upon artists. The A-Side and the B-Side.

Recently, I (re)purchased my favorite Roxy Music album, For Your Pleasure. Throwing this in the CD player and hitting play, I was enjoying the Ferry style pop numbers that start with the classic minor hit, Do the Strand and builds to the climax of Phil Manzanera's fantastic (Enosified) guitar solo on In Every Dream Home a Heartache. But then without pause the CD segues directly into the more Eno inspired experimental second side with songs like Bogus Man and Grey Lagoons. The first RM album, the self titled Roxy Music had a similar structure and truly benefits from the limitations that vinyl imposes.

Some things are better laid out in acts, others like a Jack Kerouac novel, should be seen as a stream of consciousness without pause. Certainly the advent of CD has changed how artists structure their albums. We get more music than we used to, but whether it is better is another question. It seems some artists pile the potential hits and singles at the front of the CD and the rest is filler. Other artists use a more random approach sprinkling the entire CD with quality work (of course those are the musicians that actually have the talent to sprinkle quality throughout). But what artists don't do anymore is structure their work into themes and acts. Sometimes an intermission isn't just an excuse to grab a drink or go to the restroom.

[Update: George Wallace comments.]

Friday, February 20, 2004


Who doctored the photo of John Kerry at a rally to place him on stage with Jane Fonda? That is what the photographer of the original photo would like to know, and ironically he happens to be a professor of journalism at UC Berkeley who teaches on law and ethics for photographers. The question also remains, why should it matter. has the whole story.

Don't you just hate it when this happens?

A nice piece by Kevin Drum at Calpundit on "the truth about liberals". It is always amusing when the other side ascribes motivations to their opponents. I'm sure liberals do it to conservatives too, and I've had conversations with my Christian friends where they are fond of telling me what Jews believe (and why we're wrong).

At Slate, Dahlia Lithwick does her usual exemplary job of making sense out of "memogate".

I know the sins of the (nutball) father shouldn't be visited on the son, but they belong to the same church and Mad Mel hasn't done a great job of distancing himself from these kinds of statements. And they wonder why the Jewish community is concerned?

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Tyranny of the Majority

When Faux Pundits complain about "activist judges" and "renegade mayors" ignoring the "will of the people" they should take a look at this sad little statistic.
Here [via Atrios].
We Have a Winner

Friend Bridget sends in a caption for the "Romulan chicks"
candid photo...
"Here I am in this stupid outfit. If this is the future, I'll be freezing the rest of my life. Kill me now. Maybe I should take the GDE. EGD. GED. Whatever."
Fourth one down.
Film's Last Gasp

An excellent article at about the future of film in a digital world. Conclusion, it's not dead yet, but definitely on life support.
Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

If a tree falls in the forest...

Spent a portion of yesterday evening looking at some works by Andy Goldsworthy, the British sculptor, naturalist and photographer. If you are not familiar with his work you can check out these links, here and here. His works would be categorized as earthworks, mostly fragile constructions of natural materials found in nature and painstakingly woven into fractal like forms and carefully placed in their natural environments. Often his photographs are the only lasting record of the work, and the photographs exist as artworks in themselves.

In an odd way, I was reminded of the Dadaist concepts of Man Ray when he would disassemble his constructions after photographing them. The concept was that the object should not be confused with the work of art, which in this case was the photograph. The work of art should be "purely cerebral yet material."

So the question remains, if the only remaining record of the object is the photograph, which is the true work of art? Must art have permanence?

Perhaps photoblogging and digital work that is never printed and lives only as 1's and 0's in a cyber reality are a Dadaist statement. Is this getting too post-modern. I've got nothing.

On another note, friend George, in an email comment, was kind enough to say that my Canon Cheerleader, here, made him think of Athena springing fully-grown out of Zeus' head.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Final Vegas Phlog

At the Mirage. Insert tasteless Roy joke here...

Treasure Island is trying to rebrand itself as TI (Temptation Island). It's not a family destination any more (again).

When they pose for you... This was a big thing at PMA, having oddly clad models who would just strike a pose whenever they saw a camera pointed at them.

But you got a more telling picture when you caught them unawares.

This is Norman.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Dining and Culture in Las Vegas

Having a bit of free time yesterday morning, I made my way to the lobby of The Venetian, where I'm staying, and laid down my $15 to visit the Renoir to Rothko exhibit at the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum here in the hotel. It's kind of like a junior college survey course in modern art from impressionism to expressionism. Most of the collection are somewhat minor works by major artists. A van Gogh, a Cezanne, a couple of Braques, several Picassos, one Severini, 2 or 3 Legers, a few Kandinskys and a Rothko, accompanied by one of those little speaker phones with a Guggenheim curator explaining Kandinsky's religious symbolism in soothing tones.

Later in the evening we had imitation French food, in the imitation Paris, with an imitation snooty waiter, who I managed to score big with, getting at least a half dozen very good sirs. It was like a scene in a Woody Allen movie where each diner did their utmost to gain the waiter's approval and a jury of judges held up signs, scoring each interaction. "Ahh, sir, the 2000 Pinot, an excellent choice". 8, 7.5, 9, 9. "The sole, very good indeed". 7, 8.5, 9, 8. By the time dessert rolled around I was feeling the pressure. I really only had room for the chocolate mousse, but that seemed too mundane and I knew that I could blow the whole thing with a fall at this juncture. So I took the plunge, "The pear and chocolate crepe, please." A smile and a nod was all I needed to know that I had nailed the triple Lutz.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Friday Phlogging - PMA Vegas Edition

No time for captions. Suggestions welcome.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Just Checkin' In

In Vegas, which always promotes the requisite fear and loathing, rising bile, teethgrinding, etc., but the hotel is very nice.

Thanks to Our Girl in Chicago for her kind link and welcome to our visitors from About Last Night. Hope you find something here of interest.

Tomorrow I'll be working PMA (Photo Marketers Association) Tradeshow. So hopefully there might be some fun gear to blog about. I'll keep you posted.

Your Man in Vegas

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Not so very much poetry

A line from a Charles Bukowski poem I'm fond of...
... but as God said,
crossing his legs,
I see where I have made plenty of poets
but not so very much

Read the entire poem here.
2 Vases

A mid-week photoblog with a bit of image manipulation
Our Girl Discovers Netflix

Over at About Last Night, OGIC has discovered Netflix, the joys of creating a queue, and their fantastic library of classics, foreign films, and the usual Hollywood fare. I've blogged before on the benefits of Netflix, but I thought this a good moment to mention some of the fun and interesting things that Netflix has brought my way recently.

La Cercle Rouge: Jean-Pierre Melville's seminal crime movie defines "cool", or should I say Le Cool.

Thirteen: Don't see this if you have teenagers at home. Too scary.

Quai des Orfevres: Clouzot's tale of murder and ambiguity.

Swimming Pool: Charlotte Rampling... She's still got it.

Grand Illusion: Renoir's POW escape movie.

The West Wing, season 1: Late to the party, but this turned into a major marathon in our house.

A number of these, I would challenge you to find on the shelves of your local Blockbuster. I've also caught up on the available Bunuel films, which are sadly few, and my queue contains Fassbinder's BRD trilogy, some classic Lina Wertmuller films, Godard's "Contempt", Alex Cox's "Repo Man", Paul Verhoeven's "Soldier of Orange" and "The Fourth Man", on top of keeping up to date on new releases.

Unlike Our Girl, I tend to leave Hollywood classics to AMC and Turner Classic. If I want to see Bogart or Cary Grant they are usually on TV often enough, but for foreign movies and indies, Netflix can't be beat.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Coming Events

A couple of excursions this past weekend along with a planned trip should produce some interesting blogging fodder and photos, but other responsibilities may require a bit of patience on your part.

Over the weekend I visited my favorite bookstore in the South Bay, Kepler's of Menlo Park. Had a nice hike along the baylands, complete with some nice photos. Attended a 7 year old's birthday party at the Chabot Space & Science Center high above my old stomping grounds of Berkeley atop the Oakland Hills. The weather was great and the sky was a clear blue. You could see the entire bay. Pictures to follow.

I will also be heading out to a photographic tradeshow in Las Vegas, which depending on wireless connectivity could mean more or less blogging later in the week.

Stay tuned.

Friday, February 06, 2004

"Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk
into an open sewer and die." -- Mel Brooks

Friedrich Blowhard is Late to the Party, Again as he (re)discovers the comedies of Mel Brooks. As regular readers know, we never stopped loving Mel here at Futurballa.

P.S. Terry Teachout is celebrating a birthday, his 48th I believe. Visit his blog!

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Norah Jones

I must admit that Ravi's daughter is a musical guilty pleasure of mine.

Her new album is out next week and if you want to hear it now, VH1 is kindly streaming the whole thing. Just click on this link... : Norah Jones

Relax and enjoy.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Phlogging Today

Photo-Blogging or Phlogging is a fairly random exercise on my part. I always carry my trusty Canon s400 with me and when I see something that catches my eye, I snap a picture and often post it up here with little more than resizing, a quick lighting adjustment (usually Photoshop CS's powerful Shadows/Highlights adjustment), levels, curves, and maybe an unsharp mask. Sounds like a lot, but it is a pretty quick process. This is not serious photographic work, for that go to my site,, but just fun snaps and experiments that I thought worth phlogging here.

Today's shot were taken on the De Anza campus in Cupertino, California.

Some roots along a wall. A ton of sharpening to create an even more abstact look.

An old building on campus that has seen better days. Converted to black and white to enhance the drama of the sky and the feeling of decay.

Just liked the lines. Also converted to a monchrome image to better emphasize the shape and outlines of the composition.

I like staturary, shapes, and forms. They make interesting compositions.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Producers Central

This does seem to be the place where you come to get your news on Mel Brooks's The Producers. Though I admit to stealing most of it, or "linking" as we say in the blogosphere, from Terry Teachout.

And indeed, Terry has another delightful tidbit today. The Producers might be playing Berlin soon. Now that's irony, and not the "like rain on your wedding day" type.

Click here to read the whole thing.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Pretty Pictures

While I would be loathe, not to mention sadly outgunned in taking on AC Douglas on a question of "what is art"?, I would be willing to put in my 2 pfennigs in on a question of technique. In today's archived post (read it here), he discusses at some length whether color, landscape photographs can be art. He writes, and I quote at some length,
First, and easiest to tell and understand, is that, unless something abstract is intended, by the very fact of the photographs being color photographs of nature subjects, they're incapable of nuanced manipulation, and the color image rendered is just about guaranteed to be hyper-real in both saturation and hue, and therefore just about guaranteed irredeemably vulgar. Color photographs of nature subjects almost always are (I say almost to allow for the unlikely possibility that somewhere, by someone, there exists a color photograph of a nature subject that's not irredeemably vulgar).

Further, the color rendered in the image under any given natural lighting conditions is determined entirely by the manufacturer's "build" of the emulsion and its subsequent absolutely rigid processing, and the results are therefore exactly the same for all users, only extremely limited post-processing alteration of the color image being permitted with negative stock, and none at all with positive. (One can, of course, go to a third-generation print from an internegative made from the positive, in which case the extremely limited post-processing alterations possible using original negative stock would obtain, but with all the deterioration of image quality that third-generation implies).

Also, and perhaps more importantly, brightness ranges in nature are the most extreme of any location, and color stock, both negative and positive, but especially positive, can handle only a very limited portion of that range (as compared with black-and-white stock), brightnesses at the top of the actual scale going very quickly and abruptly to detail-less and texture-less off-color whites in the image, and at the bottom, to detail-less and texture-less blacks.

And so the image color and capturable brightness range are, ultimately, rigidly determined by the manufacturer of the film (and of the paper as well in the case of color prints), the putative artist being entirely at the mercy of the emulsions he uses, and therefore having to accept whatever color image those emulsions and their rigid processing produce, unless he chooses to go a manifestly abstract route, in which case the nature photograph becomes not a nature photograph at all, but something quite different.

Less easy to understand for many is the fact that a color photograph, unless manifestly intended as an abstraction, pretends to reality; that is, it pretends to render with fidelity things in the natural world as seen normally by the eyes of Homo sapiens, and it's due that very fact that the messing about with the color image is so severely limited. Go beyond that narrow limit and the color rendering is perceived instantly as in some way "wrong" or, worse, inept.

This problem, as well as the others noted above, is not a problem when working with black-and-white materials, negative and print, as a black-and-white print is instantly perceived as an abstraction from the get-go, and therefore the range and degree of manipulation of the image for expressive purpose -- both in- and out-of-camera, and at just about every stage of production -- is, at bottom, and within widely separated boundaries, limited only by the expressive gift and technical skill of the photographer.

The upshot of all this is that any color photograph of a nature subject, except in the rarest of instances (I'm again covering my ass here; I've never actually encountered such an instance), is just about guaranteed to have about it a sense of sameness with other such color photographs, and have about it as well a sense of the mechanically constrained, both of which are art-destroying at the most fundamental level.

I am certainly not going to offer up one of my own works on the alter of deconstruction, and I share much of his view that black and white photography lends itself better to the abstraction required to create art. And by limiting the discussion to landscapes, perhaps he makes his argument by not allowing for more specific compositions that can create some puzzle in the viewers eye.

However, I would argue that even with landscapes, the photographer has several artistic tools at his hand. While color positives do have very little latitude in processing and the photographer has limited control over the actual color reproduction, by the very choice of a specific emulsion, the photographer can exert a level of control. Saturation levels and color behavior are very specific from brand to brand and from film type to film type. Secondly control of lighting is in the hands of the artist. So much of landscape photography is about capturing a moment in time, a specific point in time when the light is just right. Further, the use of filters can create a level of abstraction that can make a landscape something other than a gaudy reproduction of a scene, better suited to Sunset Magazine than MoMa. And finally the landscape photographer creates his composition by picking his point of view and his choice of lens.

These factors can combine to create images that pass the "jabberwocky" test. I would perhaps suggest the work of William Eggleston and some of the other artists of the new topography school, a number of whom worked in color as well as black and white. These are not pretty pictures of Yosemite or Scotland, but images of our suburban landscape. I guess it is what the meaning of landscape is. And if you insist on categorizing landscape as scenery, I might offer up the work of Cole Weston (youngest son of Edward).

[Update: Mr. Douglas replies.]
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Alive and Well and Living in Paris

George Wallace, posting from his secret compound in Hiatus-port has a delilghtful double dactyl that reduces Hamlet to eight lines of verse. Click here.
We apologize for the wardrobe malfunction

From this AP story, it looks like MTV, Justin, Janet and CBS are all engaged in damage control.

Now, not to flog an expired equine, but does she always wear a pasty?

Sunday, February 01, 2004

What is this blogging thing?

Terry Teachout offers up a 15 point plan for bloggers. He makes some excellent points and even dares to stick his neck out here and there. For instance, number 9, "Within a decade, blogs will replace op-ed pages."

And I totally agree with the first two,

"1. It's almost impossible to explain what a blog is to someone who's never seen one. That's the mark of a true innovation.

"2. I know very few people over fifty, and scarcely any over sixty, who "get" blogging." Heck, it's hard enough to explain blogging to my wife.

Read it here.

Terry and Our Girl have also revamped their blogrolls, of which I am proud to be a part. Check it out.

I should be so organized.