Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Auckland Project- John Gossage/ Alec Soth

Photo: John Gossage
John Gossage should have been banned a long time ago, for the sake of all the rest of us who ever think of picking up a camera and embarrassing ourselves, his vision is that consummate. Color, or B&W- format doesn't faze him either. The guy can take amazing photographs of absolutely nothing, absolutely anywhere. He's pretty much made a career of it.

The Auckland Project is a two part "collaboration" between Gossage and Alec Soth bound in a bright plastic sleeve. Although to be fair, the latter's contribution consists of a poster and a couple of snapshots. Not really quite sure what that's all about! The Gossage portion, called An Easy Guide to the Southern Stars (A Number of Photographs), consists of a hardbound book with excellent color reproductions and fold out enlargements at regular intervals. The pictures are of the most banal and mundane everyday objects and vistas that Mr. Gossage came upon during his promenades throughout suburban Auckland. Eggleston's subject matter looks like a Hollywood action movie complete with pyrotechnic explosions and car chases compared to ol' John's scenarios of drying paint. Regardless, the son of a bitch somehow, someway manages to fill them with a sense of mystery and make them shine.

We should all be so lucky, and talented. Most of us die trying on our own daily jaunts through the neighborhood (or whatever domain, foreign or domestic, we find ourselves privileged to roam) camera in hand- the one we have personally anointed for own specific needs and vision. And after a day's worth of time and effort, we're "supposed" to go home with our half dozen keepers. Of course, rare is the day; but that's the way it's "supposed" to work. Gossage does it regularly- in fact, after doing just that one day, he had Soth in a near depression.

Like many of Friedlander's projects, Gossage could have definitely gone with a tighter edit, the sheer number of similar images only serves to dilute the magic- still, amazing how many of the damn things work. Despite that plethora, this was the only decent jpeg I could find, and even more ironically, the picture that most represents the book online is Soth's one photo contribution- go figure. Anyway, though I can't fit it into my budget at the time, this one's worth the price (at $50, that is-  wouldn't pay what I'm seeing elsewhere)...

Update: And perhaps my proofreader should also be banned for originally misspelling Auckland. Thanks- JG!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ai Wei Wei- Never Sorry

What manner of man is Ai Wei Wei... someone who can resurrect as lame and tired a gesture as giving the finger into a fresh and provocative symbol of both hope and defiance. I have to admit, I really didn't know shit about Ai Wei Wei before this movie and he's probably definitely the most important artist in the world today if only because he's inspiring an entire country (and audience worldwide) by directly challenging a corrupt, authoritarian  political system. And art could have no greater or more noble cause to validate and exclaim its very existence. What he makes clear is that you cannot separate the two, you cannot have one without the other, for art is the fullest expression of individual and collective freedom.

And he risks his life and safety in that very cause... 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Gun Lover's Paradise!!!

It's been interesting reading how gun enthusiasts salivate to make this a country where there aren't needless laws that restrict and hinder their god given right and freedom to own as many guns and weapons as they demand. Rejoice my gun loving brethren! That land of cordite, milk and honey (and countless guns and endless ammo) is already every bit as real as an AK-47 with an extended banana clip of armor piercing rounds. So why isn't The NRA a bit more enthusiastic about promoting tourism in Somalia?

Fun Fact: More settlers on The Oregon Trail died from accidental self inflicted gun shot wounds than from Indian attacks. Yee-ha!!!

Accountability in 2012!?

Yup! From Obama? Uh-uh. From Congress? Please. The Pope? You jest. But imagine if the latter- or any or the aforementioned did react to injustice like the NCAA? Bravo!!! 
Update: Or maybe NOT...

I Just Have This Feeling...

Was watching this interview on PBS where a senior citizen was asked if she supported Obama's new health care legislation. When she replied in the negative, she was then asked what exactly she didn't like about it. The response was immediate, "I don't know exactly what- I just have this feeling." Nothing more than...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Political Gun Advocates- Paid To Be Insane

Interestingly, Sen. Johnson is also a friend to pedophile priests.

We can have laws regulating safety restrictions concerning cars, food, drugs- you name it... But there is no way, no way in hell that we can ever tolerate any restrictions whatsoever on how many guns we can own and how lethal we can make them! Cause everyone knows that if every American had an assault rifle, an RPG, and a different handgun for every day of the week (along with limitless ammo on demand), we would all be infinitely safer! Every god fearing American above the age of two knows that this great country was forged on the backs of those brave citizens able and willing to purchase high capacity 100 round magazines for their automatic weapons!!!

PS- Not to worry, all the media attention (what little there is and won't be) about having fewer guns in our lives will be over in... two weeks. Guaranteed.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Good Day, Mr. Wiggins!

Photo: Bogdan Cristal/Reuters

And congratulations on that little bike race you just happened to win (and do so cleanly)- the first Brit to hold and keep the famed maillot juane! If (like I once was) you're not impressed, try riding up a hill on a bike one day. These guys ride race up mountains The Alps. And the "fun" lasts for three weeks...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Just Another Mass Shooting, Folks- Not To Worry...

Up until the latter twentieth century, whenever some homegrown, psycho non-Muslim crazy would shoot up a bunch of his fellow Americans, a few of our feckless, chosen leaders would denounce the crazed, wanton act of depravity and proclaim that we really needed to finally get all up and serious about doing something or other about all those things that shoot people and get 'em all killed. Yes, it was really, finally, and without a doubt time to really and finally do something about... 

GUNS! Until it was two weeks later, and everyone was tired, and no one wanted to talk about it (let alone actually do something about it)...

So much for that foolishness. Cause we're the god fearing, flag lovin', gun toting land of the free, and we no longer talk the crazy talk of needing less guns in this here 21st. century! Everyone now knows, if anything, we need more guns. And God loves the guns! Jesus loved his goddamn guns to death- if he a had his freakin' Uzi on that bleak and bleary Friday... no way they'd nail him to no damn cross. No Fuckin' Way! Every goddamn, god fearin' Christian'll tell ya that straight up!

We're Americans goddammit- Christian to the core. We don't get shot up less God wants it so.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Going Back...

Recently, out of desperation to get outta town (or at least outside the city limits), I decided to visit "old friends" at Pet's Rest Pet Cemetery next door in Colma ("where San Francisco goes to die"). It was a bit sad- the place is not as big as it once was (it used to go beyond that chain), and it was in most definite need of watering- a small portent of what the future holds as far as water scarcity throughout the world.

But it's always good to be amongst friends...

Pet's Rest- Colma, CA

Pet's Rest- Colma, CA

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

When Action and Sanity Take Hold...

I hardly, if ever, get news of any real definitive hope concerning The Public School System of these United States- despite the fact that each and every day some incredibly dedicated professionals throughout the land (particularly those in any inner city environment you choose) are giving their all, despite all odds. Every working day, they struggle against ridiculous test criteria that belittle them as professionals, and drastically shortchange the actual education of their students. And that's just the backdrop for the host of individual challenges each and every student presents- many with problems that academic programs of any kind were never meant to address, let alone solve.

Having dealt with these problems first hand for seventeen years in New York and California with a student population officially classified as "Severely Emotionally Disturbed," there wasn't a day that I didn't realize that all I was doing was applying a band aid to a mortal gaping wound- a wound that had a much greater chance of festering and spreading deeper and further, than of ever receiving the desperate and immediate long term, intensive care it so desperately needed. It was triage on the best of days.

So when I hear about a Restorative Justice Program that directly addresses the core social, emotional and disciplinary needs of those children who so obviously need it most, particularly in a city as troubled as Oakland, I am left a bit dumbfounded- relieved by the very existence and long overdue application of such a proven and effective program, and frustrated that more aren't employed everywhere they're so desperately needed. Usually those needs, even the most rudimentary and academic, are overlooked or under served- or worse yet, engaged with absolute subterfuge, as in the case of the much touted, and profoundly meaningless and pernicious No Child Left Behind.

It is also important to note that innovative programs (unlike the latter) actually save money. Not only do they prove effective in turning young lives around, so that they can be made ready to become educated and productive citizens- they are also infinitely more cost effective than any adult corrective institution ever devised by man. Unfortunately, many Tea Partying politicians would rather be seen cutting public education funding these days (as they send their kids elsewhere), so that they can in turn look tough on crime when they vote for more money to create private prisons for the criminals they directly help create- and therefore boost one of the very few growth industries left in this country...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Days of Destruction/Days of Revolt

If ya have to let that one sink in for a while before it makes sense, or if it just doesn't make sense to ya no way, no how- count yourself one helluva lucky bastard... for the time being.

Chris Hedges And Joe Sacco are two of my favorite journalists in the whole wide world- one tells it like it is, the other shows it. Both offer insights into sections of the world and society that many of us would either choose to ignore- or purposely wish to misrepresent to maintain our own comfort level and chosen "world view."

Photography (not to mention the written word) is often cited and faulted for being the limited medium that it has always been and cannot help but be- and no one knows it more than any skilled and capable photographer (or writer). Sacco's work addresses those limitations in all its various subtleties and nuances, and he's done so repeatedly (and ever so effectively) whether in Gaza, Bosnia- or the down and out realities of homeland USA in Days of Destruction/Days of Revolt...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Osama's Dead- OSAMA HAS WON!

Via: No Caption Needed
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qaeda, in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note other than some benefits for their private corporations," bin Laden said.

Time to admit the obvious... all along, his goal was to bankrupt the US, and with the more than enthusiastic help of his comrades in arms (the international bankstas), and our ever so eager politicians (both Democrat and Republican alike), ever so anxious to either shrink or obliterate every social program in existence, and create or expand every security and military program imaginable, while deregulating every law meant to rein in zillionaires and protect ordinary citizens.

I can't think of another headline that so blatantly proclaims the ever so obvious..   OSAMA HAS WON!!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

It's All In The Details...

Photos: S. Banos

One thing that really kills it for me is when you have the makings of a great scenic, and the sky's a wash- I'm talking of course, of blown out highlights. I've seen way too many of them online- and I'm the very last guy to ask what percentage of this is due to the highlight limitations of digital sensors and/or the fact that they're just low res/online only jpegs.

The shot above was as much experiment as anything else- looking straight out, the light was blinding, and I was curious to see just what the hell would come out. Honestly, I didn't expect much; fortunately, experience dumb luck kicked in, I nailed the exposure, and I'm really quite amazed at what an inch and a half of Tri-X can do (on an 8 bit, low res scan no less).  I just don't see how a digital sensor could have possibly fared as well...

Likewise, I almost didn't take the picture below because I 'knew' the white, featureless, upper left sky would be completely blown out. And yet, there it was, right on the scan- detail! Or I should say, some measure of tonal value. True, I have darkened it a bit, the point being- there is, in fact, something to actually darken. Again, I don't think a digital sensor would have come through- particularly considering I had to expose for the shadows! Of course, the day will no doubt come when digital sensors will equal and surpass film's one remaining bastion of superiority.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"As Dogs Marking Their Territory"

   Photo: S. Banos
Photography is easier, more popular and as ubiquitous as the weather; long gone is the romantic, analog notion of photographs being treasured, historical artifacts. And at least since the seventies, there have been those who have called for the time when all of us are as visually versed and educated in the medium of photography, as in any other. The question, of course, is that now that we find ourselves in this global, nonstop digital shootout, are we any more literate in this particular medium- or are we no different than the minions of functionally illiterate students that inhabit our nation's middle schools?

This article is surprisingly rife with some (possibly?) insightful facts, quips and observations concerning our current and curious state of photography...

Prof. Cooper even cynically suggests that people brandish smart phones habitually now because no one smokes any more and they aren’t sure want to do with their hands. 

One photographer's unique contribution to slow things down...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Under Our Skin

Under Our Skin is perhaps the most disturbing documentary I've ever seen- and for several reasons. First, it is a very somber study of a very serious disease that first made headlines in the late seventies and has managed to fall off radar while leaving an ever growing circle of despair and devastation. Lyme Disease is caused by a parasitic spirochete from the bite of an infected tick, that can conveniently burrow into any part of your body (just like its syphilitic cousin) and cause grave havoc wherever and however it chooses to manifest. This is one seriously scary bugger- and they're practically... everywhere!!!

Not only do the ever growing numbers of those stricken have to battle the infection itself (and its myriad of severely debilitating manifestations), for which the only treatment is massive and prolonged antibiotics- they also have the fight of their lives (literally) with the vast majority of the... US medical establishment. Meanwhile, the small minority of doctors who are, in fact, willing to treat patients (I'm very much tempted to say 'victims') properly are having their licenses revoked by the ruling doctors who are in bed with health insurance companies (1-3 months coverage and 'bye, bye') and private, for profit interests working on vaccines and completely unwilling to share information to hasten the control of this epidemic. Meanwhile, patients are dismissively ordered to see shrinks (by those who either should or do know better) while more and more of them are slowly and agonizingly suffering- and dying...

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


After endlessly observing and plotting ad nauseum (while spending hundreds of millions of dollars), we finally have proof positive (kinda) of the missing cosmic "god particle" that explains... our very existence! Only problem- we don't know exactly what the heck it does, and especially, how the heck it does it.

What we have proved yet again (and with irrefutable 100% accuracy) is just how unbelievably ignorant we still remain. Hopefully, the photoblogger with the credentialed astrophysics background is supplying a better analysis today, meanwhile...

The Higgs Boson Explained from PHD Comics on Vimeo.