Monday, August 18, 2014

An Abbreviated Vacation

Bring the step ladder, bring the step ladder, bring the freakin' step ladder! That's the mantra I've kept telling myself over and over since our last road trip years ago. Road trips are when you can bring everything plus the kitchen sink, since ya don't have to carry it all with ya. And from previous trips, I've found that what I've really needed much more than a tripod was a step ladder for those scenics and architectural shots where one doesn't have view camera controls for the necessary height and perspective control. So needless to say what particular item I yet again forgot to pack...

Anyway, Uncle Amex could only afford us a rental for three nights/four days last weekend; the plan was to head south and hit Sequoia National Park (always wanted to see those big mothers since I saw the HUMONGOUS cross section of one displayed in The Museum of Natural History since I was but a wee lad) and then swing back home via Death Valley. We arrived at the former around five late afternoon, and it was not quite what we expected. It wasn't a magical forest of unbelievably huge and majestic grand Sequoias, rather a large forest with what appeared to be a few sprinkling of said trees. To get to General Sherman (the BIGGEST tree in the world), we would have to park the car, stand on line, then jump on a bus to see him. Considering the time, we forgoed that option since we still had to secure a motel somewhere in the general vicinity; we would return the following day. Winding our way out of the park, it took what seemed forever going up and down endlessly curving mountain roads that increasingly devolved from scenic opportunities to repetitive stress related syndrome. Halfway outta the park we realized we would not have the time to return the next day, and seriously wondered if it was worth the effort even if we did. Redwood National Park is a truly magical place with its own wondrous aura, Sequoia National Park on the other hand... to be honest we didn't give it a fair shake, but...

Outside the Mad Greek's Cafe @ Baker, CA- "Gateway To Death Valley;"  Photo: © S. Banos

So on we went to Death Valley where we had made a night's reservation at the "world famous" Amargosa Opera House and Hotel. The aforementioned has quite the fascinating history, having been purchased by NYC ballerina Marta Becket in 1968, where she continued to live and give solo performances (she just celebrated her 90th birthday there) in the middle of the desert. It is also said to be haunted. Love the place: stark, desolate, dilapidated- literally in the middle of nowhere. A place I really feel at home in...

Next day, we formally entered Death Valley National Park, first stop was Zabriskie Point, where if it wasn't for the locale, one would swear was somewhere mid Europe- the only languages heard: German, French and a smattering of Italian. While there, we were treated to a mid morning summer storm- complete with lightning, thunder, dramatic skies and flash flooding... Quite the once in a lifetime treat, but try as I might (and I most certainly did), could not get the requisite lightning enhanced landscape shot. Didn't need the step ladder either...

Barstow, CA;  Photo: © S. Banos

Saturday, August 16, 2014


Mighty Benbulben lurks in many a shot throughout the background of this film- imposing, menacing, and as is so much of the Irish countryside- hauntingly beautiful, a metaphor for the tragedy and survival that is Irish history. The Catholic priest scandal is but a side note in Calvary, the courier for the larger message- humanity is hell bent on doing itself in, in every way imaginable. We refuse to learn, and yet refuse to give up. The characters in Calvary are very much caricatures of human vice and frailty, each excelling in their own chosen path to misery and hell. And they all find themselves within convenient drinking distance, a small rural community of emotional vampires in the most scenic of countrysides. 

Brendan Gleeson's Father James must somehow deal with the whole lot, all the while knowing that one is going to kill him. More philosopher than priest, he has plenty going for him, including his own veiled darkness. The story has plot flaws aplenty, yes; and the metaphors in people's clothing come on a tad too strong and obvious- but they grab hold of you nonetheless, just as life's many ugly little side plots drag us in despite our protest. And as is often the case, there's just no way of telling who'll win.

Friday, August 15, 2014

And Never The Twain Shall Meet...

Preaching to the choir is, well... just that, so I'll often go beyond my comfort zone to (FWIW) post my views, insights, etc. in more unrestricted waters. Unfortunately, instead of shedding light or being in turn enlightened, the only guarantee is that one will get catch an ample earful of grief. Recently, I went on Petapixel to cast my 2 cents on the shooting at Ferguson. The wingnuts were out a'plenty and I sometimes just like to engage 'em to sharpen my debating skills and hopefully help forestall my inevitable slide into dementia. After several hostile encounters, one particular commenter made a rather sincere inquiry as to what was the "logic" in people rioting and looting as a response to an injustice; I replied:

Who said it was "logical?" It's illogical, emotional, counterproductive. It's taking things out on the closest opportunity available. Kicking the societal dog. When you feel powerless, when your schools are third rate, when there are no jobs but the drug trade and minimum wage jobs that can't pay rent, when you can't afford higher ed even if you make the grades, when you have a well over 90% White police force that doesn't live in your hood oppressing you daily, calling you animals, stopping and abusing you whenever they want- believe it or not... you can do irrational things!

NO--- I'm not excusing it; I'm not condoning it. Understanding something doesn't mean you condone things. That's what Conservatives can't fathom- they can't hold two conflicting thoughts in their simple, little heads at once. Repeat: understanding DOES NOT EQUAL your blessing and support. It's simple science- the more you understand something, the more prepared you are to deal with it and apply a truly effective solution by addressing what causes such episodic violence. But Conservatives like the present scenario of keeping all minorities in ghettos that have next to nothing, so they can continue to play the blame game- they're all animals, it's all their fault!

How many Whites in thousand dollar suits that bankrupted our country did a perp walk? How many Whites in suits went to jail for starting The King Mother of All Riots in Iraq? And yet, people will call me a "racist" for pointing that out.

If you're White and never lived in the inner city, isolated from the rest of society- I don't expect you to understand. But Conservatives will tell you everything about anything and anyone with no direct knowledge whatsoever!

Yeah, I could've definitely been more diplomatic in my language towards Conservatives; unfortunately, diplomacy is often either ignored or taken for weakness in these open air internet forums, making one a target for even more abuse. And here was the predictable Wingnut (not the same commenter) response:

BS. You smug condescending progressive democrat party douche.  
(UpDate: Some of the snarkier comments have since been deleted).

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Platon On Snowden; Snowden on NSA

Edward Snowden, Photo: Platon

“They still haven’t fixed their problems. They still have negligent auditing, they still have things going for a walk, and they have no idea where they’re coming from and they have no idea where they’re going,” Snowden said. “And if that’s the case, how can we as the public trust the NSA with all of our information, with all of our private records, the permanent record of our lives?” 

The Most Wanted Man in the World: Behind the Scenes with Edward Snowden from WIRED on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Friday, August 8, 2014

More Please!

This is exactly what is needed- serious investigation, scientific investigation of whatever the supposed evidence or data... be it film, video, radar, radiation readings, flight recordings, etc- and let the chips fall where they may. How can a US astronaut, one of the original Right Stuff astronauts no less, claim outright that a UFO landed in a lake bed where he was working, that it was filmed and then given to the Air Force, only to never be seen again- how can he say that without investigation of his "allegation," or... his sanity???

Yeah, the above video's a sham; there are fakes a plenty out there, crazies a plenty too- No freakin' doubt! But if only .001% of all the evidence presented is of extraterrestrial or interdimensional origin- there goes the whole ball of denial right down the tubes. I'll take those odds anytime!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Extra! Extra! Old Man Gets Thrown A Bone!

Brooklyn- Photo: © S. Banos
Well, I entered a good half dozen competitions this year- some I damn well knew I didn't have the proverbial snowball's chance in hell, others, I thought...

Not a one panned out; nothing, nada, zip- until late last month when one photo was accepted into Rayko's Travel Exhibit premiering this Aug 6. Take note kids- forty, long, tempestuous years of vitamins and exercise in the absolute indignity of complete and utter obscurity... And now I get to bask in my longer than overdue just rewards of fabulous and never ending fame and fortune! That's right- every penny, every sacrifice finally paid off, and it's all mine for the taking! No longer will I have to use film, write a blog or lower myself to the masses. Everything changes this moment forward (y'all just lucky I didn't make it into the promo)!

If you're in the neighborhood, drop on by and I may even acknowledge your presence- although admittedly, I'll be too busy planning the retrospective to give you the time of day...

Sunday, August 3, 2014

5 Israeli Talking Points- BUSTED...


I find it ever curious how we the public are somehow supposed to actually equate "the terror" of possibly being hit by a missile (in Israel), with the reality of so many Palestinians who have actually been blown apart in Gaza.

Meanwhile, these myths get repeated in corporate media, over and over and over again- so they must be, gotta be, true...

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Israel's Legacy Of Serial Child Murder

Tapper told Regev that Israel has killed more Palestinian children in the past three weeks than "the total number of Israeli soldiers killed in military operations since 2006."

"That is a lot of dead children," he said. "At what point does the Israeli government say, enough, we're killing too many innocent children?"

We are then told that "the deaths of these children pains the chief of staff of Israeli military." Well then- what the heck is everybody complaining about?

How many times can a nation repeatedly kill scores of children and get away with it? Clearly Syria has no qualms about killing as many children as they want, and it now seems- neither does Israel. This nation which repeatedly likes to remind everyone just how much more civilized they are, than say... Syria, currently seems hellbent on ignoring just how many dead children's bodies they are now accumulating.

But Stan! What about all those crazed Muslim suicide bombers killing innocent Israelis- many of them children! What about them, huh? Yes, crazed, desperate lunatics each and everyone- to be roundly denounced, condemned and eliminated in as expedient a manner as possible! Clear? 

But, but... don't then come washing your hands and excusing yourself of child murder by gently whispering "collateral damage" in my ear. You're not arguing degrees of morality, you're arguing degrees of technology. One side kills innocent women and children as the consequence of high tech, push button, missiles and bombs, the other kills them with a decidedly more primitive... weapons delivery system. Both the rational and end result is the same- each trying to kill the other into submission by any means necessary, the blood of innocents deterring neither side. The moral high ground is highly absent here.

Israel- you were once a noble people fighting back against all odds in the Warsaw Ghetto. Now you find yourself top dog in the hood, and determined to remain so- no longer the bullied, but the bully.... like the childhood victim of sexual or domestic abuse that instead of learning from their experience, grows up to become yet another abuser doomed to repeat without conscience or remorse.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What Can One Man Do?

Lead us, show us, point the way...  but as with all the greats, they do it with the strength of will from their own two hands...

Monday, July 28, 2014

What's Wrong With Us?

Many who are so quick to condemn Shaka (in the commentary) seem oblivious to their own role in the insanity that creates the environments that nurture and encourage violence. They think it is not their problem, not their doing- unless it reaches out to them in a personal way (ie- they become victim to a crime). Then they are quick to assign blame to others... and demand vengeance (much as he once did). 

Believing it's someone else's problem, someone else's fault, and that you don't have a role in helping to fix and prevent society's problems just ensures that those very problems fester, enlarge and propagate. You can see the results today in every corner of the world. Children from broken homes and broken environments are themselves already "broken" by the age of middle school. But they can be fixed, they can be saved. The question is: are we going to help them while there's still time- or only sit in judgement and condemn them after the fact?

Instead of incarceration, we need affordable housing and education; instead of minimum wage jobs, we need real living wages (as we once had in this country); instead of lies, excuses and promises, we need people who take responsibility- yes, on both ends. Don't blame the poor on the bottom for their misdeeds while those on top are every bit as corrupt and criminal. The question is: are we forever going to assign blame whenever convenient, or strive to recognize and fix the corruption right next to us, all around us, the corruption and injustice we ourselves: deny, profit from and fall victim to?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

3 Good Reasons To Stay Away From A Movie

A) Dumbass, godawful title.

B) Shitty looking trailer.

C) Whole flick takes place on a... train.

Three great reasons that had every one of my natural instincts screaming to stay away from this shit ass movie. And yet, the goddamn critics said that this was one great, intelligent sci-fi flick (with a right on political slant no less)! The eternal quest for that rarest and most elusive of cinematic achievements (and it featured Tilda Swinton)- how bad could it be? I thought of all the sci-fi flicks that I had really believed in, the ones that would finally redeem not only their own hype, but my own hopes and dreams... and how they had all so terribly, terribly let me down. Each and every one. So, perhaps this was it, deliverance disguised- the unexpected sleeper, unheralded in my mind only... I could not let it escape. So I willingly allowed myself to be swayed and suckered... and skewered. Standard action, simplistic plot, ham handed politics.

2 X $13 for this brutally mind numbing, two hour robbery of my remaining life force.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Ain't It The Truth

My eyes automatically roll and glaze over whenever someone starts yammering about this or that world domination conspiracy theory by this or that secret cabal of Jews...

But there is no doubt, no doubt whatsoever, that Israel has complete and absolute control of US corporate media when it comes to what Israel does and how they do it in their "backyard." And for the most part, it's all done in the absolute open for all to see...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Illegality Often Starts At Home

What The Right Wing in this country doesn't want you to know, of course, is that the current refugee/child migrant issue at the border didn't occur overnight in a vacuum. This shit storm of a nightmare is in large part yet another chapter of the continuing saga of US blowback throughout this big, wide, wonderful world of ours. We've had our finger foot in the proverbial Latin American pie for so long, we've conveniently forgotten to what extent that involvement has profited our citizens- and laid waste to their societies, socially, economically, you name it...

 And if ya still need further explanation:

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Back Of The Bus

Since Mr. Von Thomas has not had the courtesy to respond (as promised), I can only conclude that he believes this a non-issue, one not worthy of his time or attention- let alone his response. In other words, I'm gonna assume he's one of those blessed souls who claims they just... "don't see race." Personally, I hope we all get there someday- as for right now:

... every time someone says that, it tells that other than white person that you are not seeing them as who and what they are; you are not considerate enough, knowledgeable enough, astute enough to know how the world works (regardless of whatever education you may possess), and how your position in it is automatically differentiated from theirs since birth- and that you will neither make the time nor effort to even consider that, thank you very much. In short, that magic, feel good phrase says more about what you so woefully lack as a thinking, feeling individual, than anything you may possibly have to offer as friend, ally, or neutral observer. And it does so in a manner that not only comes off as utterly inept, but also as completely arrogant, ignorant, condescending and bogus.

At best, in today's day and age, saying you "don't see race" simply means you want to avoid the subject at all cost.


As to the issue at hand... People are naturally drawn to photograph (and publish) that which for whatever reason appeals to them, and as long as there's no harm, no foul- who am I to object or argue? That said, If You Leave has become one of the most followed and referenced online photography galleries. It presents itself as the iconic look and feel of hip young photographers in today's modern day global setting, something that particular generation can identify with, relate to and share common ground with. And yet, how can this visual vehicle that promotes such supposedly cutting edge, universal appeal be so shackled by the centuries old constraints of racial exclusion? I mean, when I saw the blatant lack of diversity in its images, I was... I believe the term is- gobsmacked!

Jesus H Christ! From the gallery to the backyard, it's deja vu all over again in this so called "post racial" era. Sixty years after Brown vs Board of Ed, de facto segregation in schools is alive and well in the US, and Europeans are still happily tossing bananas at Black pro ball players while making monkey noises!

Photo: Laurence Tarquin Von Thomas

Five long years of photographs on If You Leave, hundreds of photographers, and one (count 'em- you're welcome to correct me) photograph (by none other than Mr. Von Thomas himself) features a scattering of Black faces interspersed in the background of an image highlighting a White female as its focal point. There's a possible second of a Black man in a hoodie- alas, the face is concealed (yeah, the absolute irony- identity and affirmation denied)! And- that's it, period. Case closed! Hundreds upon hundreds of photos (fifteen of Asians), and not one that predominantly features a Black or Brown face to date...

Obviously, someone doesn't realize just how badly that plays and translates, and/or just doesn't care- and for someone supposedly literate in the photographic/visual image, that is inexcusable. Everybody makes mistakes or omissions, but when you continue to exclude and deny representation of specific peoples (that just happen to compromise so much of our world) over such an extended period of time... Intentional or not, it presents a very clear picture of a global viewpoint that conspicuously denies the value and very existence of those people. The implied message- they're just not worth considering, let alone looking at. Who's gonna miss 'em, who's gonna object?

Is that really where we are today? Again!?!

Is this new Kickstarter endeavor the promise of a new, less exclusive format? Here we are in the 21st century where the discussion has finally shifted to publishing work taken by indigenous people the world over, instead of just having the White world view. Is this what If You Leave means by its stated goal of a global audience- encouraging and publishing photos both of people of color, and by them? That's a lot of ground to make up on both ends in the case of this publication- one so deeply steeped in denial and exclusion.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Coliseum Revisted

Andrew Burton/Getty Images (via)

I wonder if this photo will someday end up in Mark Kologi's found photo garage? Some yungun will pick it up and wonder what outdoor show or fireworks display from decades past these relaxed vacationers were preparing to watch. They'll remember how much fun they had in their own youth celebrating with their families or neighborhood friends before the responsibilities of adulthood finally hit home. They'll bask in the temporary glow provided by warm childhood memories...

And then some grizzled old timer like myself will walk up and sadly inform him or her that those are not vacationers, those are not fireworks, and that those nice people came to view and cheer on the death and dismemberment of children and families, came to celebrate the hatred and carnage that one group of people can bestow upon another.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The (Found) Photo Man

Mark Kologi gets it, this rather humble guy sitting in a garage somewhere in LA, collecting old photos, lives and memories. He gets it. It's not about the latest flavor, sensor or cool, neat photoshop action; it's about what photography does best- what even the most simple of cameras can do. The closest thing to a real live time machine man has yet devised; and limited as it is, still grasps the fleeting wonders of our lives, places them in our hands, and forever lays testament to a past just as real and sentient as anything we will ever yet experience, and never will again...