I Made This!!

Using a kit pinhole camera, the P-Sharan that comes as a perforated cardboard sheet with a pre-pinholed piece of plastic.

Basically it does all the hard work in this do it yourself project.
I still need to practice with this thing. I is REALLY hard to hold it still fr the 3 -4 second to take the picture. Even with a tripod.

A Very Fine Cat Indeed!!

The Story of a Seagull and the Cat Who Taught Her to FlyThe Story of a Seagull and the Cat Who Taught Her to Fly by Luis Sepúlveda

I know it is just a fable, an allegory or something. A message with a moral, but it felt like something more.

I know I am sentimental. I gush over kittens and puppies, not so much human babies since they remind me too much of adult humans. Anyway, now I have to admit I am a hopeless sucker for this kind of story.

A cat that immediately accepts a wounded Seagull as a friend, indeed, perhaps BECAUSE she was in need the cat felt morally obligated to act. And his cat friends all respond in kind honoring their cat code of behavior to fulfill a fellow cats commitment. And what fine fellows they all are!

Of course from a realistic view it is all ludicrous, cats helping dying birds, raising, caring, loving baby seagulls, none of it could happen (duh! You say). And the day is saved by a poet!! But I loved it all. And I am not sure why I bought it so completely, after all it is a slim story and if I count there are not a lot of details. But it seemed to be just right and I accepted it all.

Bottom line...I cried at the end, and loved it.

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I Love to Read the Man who Read

The Old Man Who Read Love StoriesThe Old Man Who Read Love Stories by Luis Sepúlveda

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had never head of this author and only by chance decided to read it. Of course its slim 130 pages was a draw.

Anyway, it was just what I needed. Set in the jungles of Ecuador it had the conflict of modernity with jungle life and people with just the right amout of magic realism. Except there really wasn't any magic realism. Why did I say that?

The thing is, it “felt” magical but really it was just a different way of looking at life. And it is a way I could never know except by reading this book.
AND and the same time there is the notion that reading is something special, although granted Antonio José Bolívar Proaño  reads books mainly to escape from bad memories. But still, it is nice to have somebody notice that reading can simply be a wonder.

“...he set off in the direction of El Idilio, his hut, and his novels that spoke of love in such beautiful words they sometimes made him forget the barbarity of man.” pg 131

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Ansco Flash Clipper - 1940's 1950's

Ansco Flash Clipper

From Ansco Flash Clipper
The Ansco Clipper, Flash Clipper and Clipper Special were simple point and shoot cameras made by Agfa-Ansco, and Ansco from the 1940s into the 1950s. They took 15 images on 616 film. The lens board pulled out of the camera body for taking pictures, and collapsed to make the camera more compact when not in use. The focus and aperture were fixed, while the shutter had I and B settings.
From Ansco Flash Clipper
From Ansco Flash Clipper
From Ansco Flash Clipper
From Ansco Flash Clipper
From Ansco Flash Clipper


I Am Now War Weary

Drift: The Unmooring of American Military PowerDrift: The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A book about America drifting toward continual military engagement.

A good book but in telling the tale it meanders around in a somewhat anecdotal fashion.

First there was the founding father's intention to make war something difficult to pursue, especially by the president. But as time marches on the country grows accustomed to war to the point that the state of war becomes a habit.

Except it was actually pulled back after the Vietnam war with the War Powers acts restricting presidential use of force and the Abram doctrine of setting things up so any military action will require the American people be invested in the adventure.

Amazingly things change and after some pretty sensible talk by Carter, then come Reagan and things start to change in the other direction. A fair amount of the books involves recounting Reagan's sales pitch to increase military spending. Pretty depressing stuff since it is mostly based on lies, exaggeration and such.

For example there were completely wrong statements of US vs Soviet military strength and then John Wayne was so incensed about his lies about the Panama Canal treaty (not about war but about American might)...

"Even after John Wayne sent Reagan a private and personal note offering to shoe him 'point by goddamn point int the treaty where you are misinforming people'...Ronald Reagan doubled down." Pg 33

And as president he makes a dramatic speech about a WWI solder buried at Arlington Cemetery where a patriotic and inspiring diary was found on his corpse. Long story short, all lies and Reagan was told about it but went ahead with the speech.

Then there is the quote to justify his Iran Contra actions where he quotes Lenin, except Lenin nobody cant find where he said it except for the reference in a John Birch society book from a Russian who was 3 years old when Lenin died.

Well...it goes on and on. Basically Reagan was a liar of amazing regularity in order to grow the military, And it is a one way ratchet pushing to ever higher levels.

I suppose I get hung up on the out and out lying stuff more than I should, since later presidents managed to achieve the same goal but with less obvious deception (why lie when you can just redefine what true actually means). And in a way the lies are really just a small means to an end, so why should the means bother me more than the end? I suppose it is just that Reagan is so deified now and nobody else points out that he was full of it, and I am just a neurotic contrarian.

I need to just let it go. Really I do.

So it paints a sad picture of a people willing to be manipulated, especially when it has little cost to them.

Yeah, it is all bad.

I need a drink.

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A Polished Picture

I bought a $3 camera from a thrift store, painted clear nail polish on the lens, and took some pictures. This is what I got


Polaroid 340

I snagged a Polaroid Land Camera 340 camera off of ebay for $12.50 (plus $12.50 shipping). It took a few tries to figure out some of the settings but so far I am pleased.
The same photos found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/zeppomanx/sets/72157632033925867/



CeremonyCeremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What do I think of this book?

That is hard to say. It is simultaneously real, symbolic, metaphorical, painful, inspiring and confusing. But I kind of thing that was the point.

To go all 9th grade level lit analysis...I thought the troubled outsider Native American returning WWII vet was not an example of a unique sociological type, but rather is a version of that part of us that quietly and perhaps painfully, lives with the repressed alienation that comes with being human in the “modern” world.
Sometimes maudlin literary criticism can say more than a more distant mature and measured approach.

So, I may have loved this book.

I wonder what the more scholarly view is, in that this book spoke about that super cool part of the Native American soul, the idea that there is Unity between us and the Universe.

"He cried the relief he felt at finally seeing the pattern, the way all the stories fit together...to become the story that as being told. He was not crazy.; he had never been crazy. He had only seen and heard the word Pg 246

Story also reenforces a notion that has bugged me off and on my whole life, that the way we live our lives is fundamentally flawed. Yet there is a “right” way to live. And one part is to be careful about words.

...no word existed alone , and the reason for choosing each word and the reason for choosing each word had to be explained with a story about why it mus be said this certain way . That was the responsibility of being human , old Ku'oosh said, the story behind each word must be told so there could be no mistake in the meaning of what had been said; and this demand great patience and love. Pg35

Key to the tale is the belief that the modern disregard for the natural world is caused but destroyers that tricked the white men into pursuing their march of destruction thinking it a virtue while actually killing our souls. These destroyers were created and use “witchery” to carry out this plan. And part of this evil is founded on an approach that view the world from a static, maybe you could say scientific perspective and not a more ambiguous in its essence.

She taught me this above all else: things which don't shift and grow are dead things. They are things the witchery people want. Pg 126

There is a poem describing the witchery world view

They see no life
When they look
they see only objects.
The world is a dead thing for them
the trees and the rivers are not alive
The deer and bear are objects
they see no life
pg 135

Oh yeah, the “Ceremony” is more than pretty cool I think but to find out what it is, you will have to read the book yourself!*

*I slipped back into 9th grade book report model

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Book Plan

Via Clarissa's Blog I found the Classics Club where people choose 50 or more “classics” and set a goal to read them in 5 years.

I've decided to join the club so I just took their suggested list and pick ones that caught my attention, regardless of whether I had read them or not.
Here is what I came up with.

Title Version On Hand
Achebe Chinua Things Fall Apart
Adams Richard Watership Down Book
Borges Jorge Luis Ficciones Book
Bronte Charlotte Jane Eyre Kindle
Bulgakov Mikhail The Master and Margarita Book
Burgess Anthony A Clockwork Orange Book
Camus Albert Stranger Kindle
Carroll Lewis Alice in Wonderland
Cather Willa My Antonia
Chopin Kate The Awakening
Conrad Joseph Heart of Darkness
Dostoevsky Fyodor Crime and Punishment Book
Dumas Alexandre The Three Musketeers
Eliot George Silas Marner
Faulkner William As I Lay Dying
Fitzgerald F. Scott Flappers and Philosophers Kindle
Forster E.M. Passage to India
Gibbons Stella Cold Comfort Farm
Gogol Nikolay Dead Souls Book
Greene Graham The Power and Glory Kindle
Hardy Thomas Jude the Obscure Kindle
Hawthorne Nathaniel The Scarlet Letter Kindle
Heller Joseph Catch-22 Kindle
Hemingway Ernest A Farewell to Arms Book
Hurston Zora Neale Their Eyes Were Watching God
Irving John A Prayer for Owen Meany Book
Irving Washington The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Kerouac Jack On the Road
Lee Harper To Kill a Mockingbird
London Jack White Fang
Melville Herman Billy Budd Kindle
Miller Arthur The Crucible
Mitchell David Cloud Atlas
Nabokov Vladimir Pale Fire Kindle
O’Brien Tim Going After Cacciato
O’Connor Flannery Wise Blood Kindle
O’Connor Flannery A Good Man is Hard to Find Book
Orwell George 1984 Kindle
Pamuk Orhan My Name is Red
The Trial and Death of Socrates
Rushdie Salman The Satanic Verses Book
Scott Sir Walter Ivanhoe Kindle
Shakespeare William Hamlet
Shakespeare William King Lear
Shakespeare William Macbeth
Silko Leslie Marmon Ceremony
Steinbeck John The Grapes of Wrath
Stoker Bram Dracula Kindle
Thoreau Henry David Walden Kindle
Turgenev Ivan Fathers and Sons
Twain Mark A Tramp Abroad Kindle
West Nathanael Day of the Locust
White T.H. The Once and Future King Kindle


Patiot, Traitor, American

Burr: A NovelBurr: A Novel by Gore Vidal
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I totally dug that the founding fathers may have all been arrogant imperfect jerks who somehow managed to place the foundation for our current country. AND the thing is, BURR shows us how the future course of the country was really an unknown.

In the popular mind we see those early years though the lens of what is the destiny of our history. Therefore what we became was inevitable from the actions of the revolutionaries. Aaron Burr's story reminds us that the winners write the history and also that the U.S. is pretty freakin amazing since Burr was a true Revolutionary hero, almost a President, was the third Vice President, was accused of murder and treason. Yet still ended his days in New York city as a “normal” citizen practicing law.

The feeling I got was that Gore adopted an SOB attitude of Burr but actually let some endearing patriotic motivations come through. Maybe that is why Gore found Burr an appealing subject. They were both SOBs who under it all had unconventional virtues at their core.

Anyway. Read it.

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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Detective

Tonight I visited J.K. Wong Kungfu Tai Chi Academy and watched a beginner Tai Chi class. Short answer, it was good and I could see myself there.

The place was clean and no rusted swords. It too was a “Wu” style like the place I went to last week, although it was a Wu Hao style of which I am not quite sure what is the difference. BUT, it passed my first test, it looked cool. I gather the Yang style is more expressive but the teacher tonight looked pretty centered and elegant in a reserved manner.

I didn't get to meet the big kahuna, the “sifu” . But the teacher and the guy who talked to me were convincing.

It may be that this place would have more immediate and in depth analysis of your technique than Taoist tai chi. The other guys seem to have a plunge ahead and sort it out approach in the beginning. And for me that kind of feels right just now.

So I think I will continue where I am going, but remember the place I saw tonight and maybe go back there later. I felt like the Toaist Tai Chi with its modified Yang style would be a good place to start. I may be wrong but for now the informal vibe of my first try might work out now.

Of course I may be slightly influenced by the fact that JK Wong would be twice as much money a month that the system at Taoist Tai Chi. (about $90 a month paid 3 months at a time)/

Overall a good vibe though


Tai Chi Detective

Last night I stopped by Lee's White Leopard Kung Fu to check out the Tai Chi Class. Their website spoke of the many levels of Tai Chi to work on and the soundness of the lineage. They teach the “Wu” style of Tai Chi and break it down to varying number of steps in the form, starting with 17 I think and up to 108. Plus there is a “Saber” form where the Tai Chi person makes the moves with a sword in one hand.

The first half of the hour class is a standing meditation where everybody holds their hand out from the waist and very slowly moves their fingers. Master Lee sat by me as they did it and explained how each finger is connected to different body parts and body functions. So that slowly moving them increases circulation and Chi flow. He was quite adamant about Chi's relationship to a healthy body.

He also teaches at least two types of Kung Fu and commented on how fortunate he was to have such great teachers.

After the standing meditation he lead the class in a short form of a set of moves, after which people broke into groups to work on whatever they were focusing on. Some die the 42 steps,others the 17 and then some brought out the swords.

I am pretty sure it is all totally legit and it was very interesting and I am glad I went. BUT, there were a number of things that just didn't pull me in, although most of them were by no means disqualifying (well maybe one).

1. This may be the most superficial, but it just didn't look pretty or graceful.

It could be I don't have the eye to judge it but, whereas some people might think (incorrectly I believe) that Aikido might not “work” in a fight, I don't think any open minded person could watch even an average Aikido class and not think it was beautiful. You can see moving from their center, and you can see when they don't, but you get the idea of the way it is supposed to be.

It looked like people were all concentrating on just moving their arms. Not completely, but that is the feel I got from it

2. When they were doing the standing meditation even I could see the many of the people were slouching or leaning forward or backward. When I used to go the Zen center, while you were sitting a monitor or teacher would sometimes walk the room quietly correctly posture for a more effective session. It just seems strange that something that obvious was not addressed.

Of course I am the newbie and may not know what the plan is

3. When they got the sword from the rack, they were rusty on the flat of the swords.
It wouldn't affect the movements at all but it just caught my eye

4. As I was reading the brochure for the place there was a comment about you couldn't be released from your responsibility unless you were moving or had an illness. I thought it strange since all you would have to do was stop paying for the class. I thought.

5. Then when I left I was told I could try two lessons for $20, and when I asked what the fee was after that I found out you have to sign a one year contract and pay 3 months up front which I think figured around $100 to $110 a month. Then I remembered noting there were no prices on the website or the brochure.

None of the things would have prompted me to discount the place immediately, except maybe the contract, but all added together I was less enthused when I left than when I first came in. I even could have stomached a contract, if that is how these things are done, IF I saw something that totally grabbed me and made me feel like I HAD to get into it.

In comparison, the Toaist Tai Chi I went to on Tuesday and participated in still strikes me as graceful and I think I get a sense of its purpose.

Next week I continue with the DFWToaist Tai Chi class and plan to check out J K Wong Kung Fu Tai Chi in Richardson, which  I notice has a FAQ on their website that says the do not have a contract to sign.


A New Step in a Different Direction

Tonight I tried out some Tai Chi.

I am taking a break from Aikido but don't want to go totally to seed. Plus one of my frustrations was that after almost 6 years of Aikido I still could never seem to relax when I should. And as I understand it, Tai Chi is to be practice from start to finish in a relaxed state. I was a little surprised there wasn't more Tai Chi around town to choose from and there are 3 places so far I am checking out.

Tonight I took the first class of the beginner series at Taoist Tai Chi in Dallas. It is a non profit org and the teachers are all volunteers getting no pay. There is a larger organization behind it that has some sort of certification process. They explicitly state they are for the health aspects NOT any martial aspect. The vibe of the place is nice, very low key and meet at a church and I am well within the average of the group and maybe at the younger end of the spectrum. Most Aikido dojos are non-profit so this was reassuring in that you felt confident you were not entering into some sort of money making scam.

I had to do a lot of Googling to find some Tai Chi online forum that criticize the organization. Nothing shocking, basically they thought it wasn't REAL Tai Chi. So I will give the 4 once a week class a try.

The first class was good, and with only learning the first few steps it was still amazingly difficult.

Tomorrow I visit and observe Lee's White Leopard Kung Fu. Review to come afterwards.


Photos and Prints

I spent a few hours in my makeshift darkroom tonight. And this whole analog world is a lot of work. Was it worth it? Maybe. One picture is a photo of a print and the other a photo of a negative and then tweaked with software. Is one better? Does it matter? By the way, I lost track of the number of turns to use on the old camera so There is a bit of double exposure on both sides of the group picture.



Bolsey B2

Today I tested a much higher quality camera that the previous examples. I found this Bolsey B2 in a closet from the in-laws house which we are slowing cleaning out. I think he got it while in the army during the Korean war. A 35mm with a rangefinder for distance and adjustable aperture and shutter speed. So compared to what I have been playing with it is a huge advancement.
These are still digitally manipulated images obtained by taking a digital picture of the developed negative. I am waiting for a new safe-light since I think the found orange bulb affected my prints I worked on last week.

The Bolsey B2 is the successor of the model B, made from 1949 to 1956 with double exposure prevention. It is engraved MODEL B2 on the front. The shutter is synchronized and marked Synchro Matic with a red lightning painted on each side. Minimal aperture is 22 instead of 16.
More photos at https://picasaweb.google.com/108355303090029404900/BolseyB2#

Elite Satus

Twilight of the Elites: America After MeritocracyTwilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy by Christopher Hayes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

OK…I am a fan of Chris Hayes and think his MSNBC show is brilliant. So why was I reluctant to read his book? I think I was afraid of being disappointed and feared that might color my enjoyment of his show. But, not to worry, the book is fine and therefore I am fine.

At first I thought it might be a just a longer exposition of truism form his (and mine mostly) worldview. Once I got into it I think he brought enough self-examination to recognize when he was part of the story in that he is part of the elite. Specifically when he points out how he has benefited by get “elite” treatment such as his NYC super duper public school for brainy boys and girls.

Overall the book is sufficiently depressing to make me think it was an accurate description of the world and basically it is worse than you think.

Such as…
Pg 104 Medicare study- 180,00 improper medications causing death a year, 16x Drunk Drivers – Daniel Levinson article

219 – During the Great Depression income gains were relatively evenly distributed while in the decades after 1979 the op 10% captured all the income gains while incomes for the bottom 90% declined
I guess the synopsis is that meritocracy is so ingrained to be assumed that whoever is at the “top” must have earned it but just because the winner crosses the goal not everybody starts at the same place. And once the playing field is not level the game becomes increasingly rigged.

Or better said in the book by this…
Pg 221- This is the paradox of meritocracy: it can only truly come to flower in that society that starts out with a relatively high degree of equality

But his final praise for the Occupy Wall Street Method of protest and governance as the thing that will save us (pg 239) was really the most depressing part, since if that is the case, we are really doomed to failure.

A few odds and ends:
I liked his observation that democracy is the opposite of meritocracy in that in one we are all equal but the other is by definition unequal.
Of course sometimes I would stumble because of his vocabulary. Sometimes because I had to look words up but other time it seems just a bit pretension (why can’t he just say “near” instead of “proximate to”?)

But verbal virtuosity like this is nice...

Incapable of addressing and forestalling the immiseration and destruction…,Inequality is autocatalytic, Hobbesian Chaos...and there was much, much more

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Beacon-II 127 format Camera

I forced some 35mm film into a 127 format camera, Beacon II which was made from 1947-55. The 35mm film is a bit smaller than the now defunct film format so the image is projected onto the sprocket holes of the 35mm type of film.

I had a few problems and only got three halfway interesting pictures. I was unsure of how many turns to use to advance the film so I could have taken twice as many many pictures. But the real problem is this camera seems way more sensitive to light than these older cameras I've been playing with. It doesn't make sense but the three salvageable pics had to be tweaked a bunch with software after I took digital pictures of the negatives.

 I have some real photo paper coming and I may see if they turn out any differently using the traditional method.
More pics at https://picasaweb.google.com/108355303090029404900/BeaconII?authkey=Gv1sRgCPbBgui66vLcTA#


More and More Pics

I forced some 120 film in to the 620 receptacle of a Kodak Duaflex III camera, after a bit of filing and sniping on the edges of the plastic film spook. Anyway I managed to get some satisfactory pics. I also loaded up the Brownie Target Six-16 with more 120 film which is just a tad smaller than the discontinued film it was designed to use. Both have a feature that lets you hold the shutter open for as long as you hold the trigger down. So I tried a few of those with some indoor scenes. It is soooo easy to forget to roll the film and the cameras don't prevent multiple exposures before advancing the film.
I really like the picture dimensions and the field of vision on the Brownie Target 616. The best pictures are landscapes and they almost have Cinemascope feel to them. It is a little tricky to use but I hope to get some nice results as I grow more used to it.
The Duaflex is another camera like the Agroflex that give square pictures but this time, with new film, I think they turned out quite well. I am still taking pictures of the negative with my camera and inverting the colors with software but I've improved my method for framing the pictures so I think they are closer to a “true” result.
I should get some actual photographic paper this week or early next week and I will try some contact sheets to see how they compare to the digitized versions. But the tone of the photos I get using my current method sure feels like a 1950's picture The picasa website is here


New Photos, Old Camera and Old Film

This time I pull out my Argoflex 75 camera and a roll of unexposed 620 format verichrome pan film with instructions to use before December 1968. They are pretty rough and I don't know if the problem is the almost 50 year old film, a crappy camera or my methodology of taking a picture of the negative with a digital camera. Probably all of the above. But I think all the imperfections conveys a sort of friendly but undeserved nostalgia to the pictures.
More photos at https://picasaweb.google.com/108355303090029404900/Argoflex75?authkey=Gv1sRgCPrcg7b8oZizZw#


New Pictires Another Old Camera

Today I used an old Kodak Brownie Target Six-16 made 1946 to 1951 an since they don't make 616 film anymore I had to tweak the camera so it would accept the still available 120 format file, But check out the height/length ration. It wide screen photography. And you only get 6 or 7 pictures per roll. I developed them but still just took a picture of the negatives and worked on them with my laptop.