I don’t update my photography site very often: galleries and art shows don’t want art that has been shared previously! (Darn it!) But I shared three posts there this month, and plan to post more in coming weeks.
In the order they went up:
Medium Format Brick Wall Portrait in Red – Words About Images
As the most pandemic restrictions lifted and I could leave my neighborhood in spring, I committed to getting out of the house WITH CAMERAS.
This post is about an image that is completely typical for me.
Pinhole Photography (with fancy technology) – Words About Images
Pinhole photography has a long and honorable tradition as a school project, as something photographers do for fun, and as a way to linger by creating long exposures in places where you want to hang out. There have been impressive works made with pinholes, but people usually choose it for the fun an…
I tried pinhole photography in one of the least DIY methods possible.
Analog and Digital (Not Versus) – Words About Images
(Image: medium format film shot of China Basin scaffolds, taken on Lomography Purple.)
This post explains why I use both film and digital technologies, for practical purposes and special effects!
It seems obvious to ME – the right tool for the right job! – but people who don’t make images require an explanation whenever I use film, regardless of context. (I was last asked by a non-photographer to explain my choice again this week, so this post is likely evergreen.)
After ten months of maintaining business continuity and transferring of all of my team’s and my own work to colleagues at a new corporate parent, I have a sense of accomplishment and relief. I left ‘things’ in good hands and departed on good terms, and now I can relax for a while!
Medical, dental, and administrative appointments took up my first days off, and more of those appointments are coming. I caught up on chores, those things I felt I must do, and did some cleaning. I took some photos, but it always felt like I had to go back to work when I completed a roll!
And then, on Wednesday of this past week, it felt REAL.
This time is really mine. Which feels rare and precious and wonderful and amazing.
I wake up early to take film out of the refrigerator to use for the days when the weather and smoke forecasts are favorable. I go out on long walks, looking at the lighting in various locations at different times of day, and choosing how I want to photograph certain buildings. I make excessively complex plans for setting up photo albums page templates for my Instax Mini prints. I fell into a rabbit hole about graffiti art by researching the Montana acrylic markers I use, which are inexplicably made in Heidelberg (!?!?!) but named after a very western state to celebrate the urban graffiti of New York City(!?!). I am now aware of the few SF Historic Districts we have; I looked up architects of buildings I like to photograph; I am reading books; I caught up on my correspondence in both English and German (!); I’ve even seen my friends!
It’s so exciting to have a life beyond my job.
I am lucky to do amazing work at amazing companies. My work offers exciting challenges and a chance to collaborate on programs that can improve human health, and is stimulating in many ways. Sometimes, they even let me listen to scientists! (Sometimes, I even understand what the scientists say! 😀 )
Yet, THIS intense self-study and self-guided time is also really NICE. Restorative. Stimulating. I can make bigger plans. I can follow my curiosity to wherever it leads me.
I’ve been having symbolic dreams at night about this. Dreams of trying to go somewhere new but being held back by other people’s issues have given way to dreams of arriving at my destination(s), and enjoying great views from a clean, pleasant location. (The cities in my dreams are GORGEOUS at night, and reflect spectacularly on nearby water!)
And then I wake up and fanatically research ink or film or glass paint or authors or book publishers or fonts while drinking French press coffee or homemade chai. (Hahahaha!)
I remain concerned about humans, and the consistently poor decision-making I’ve been witnessing. I’m going to try to vent some of this in harsh fiction, when I’m not fanatically doing something else… Otherwise, I’m hoping all this exploration will result in some good posts here, even as I wonder if this is really the best place to share what I’ve learned about spray paint nozzles. (There are SO MANY, and… oh, pardon me. Ahem.)
The Duolingo app is still a regular habit of mine! I’ve been using it in different ways for different languages, and with even more practice behind me, my favorable opinions have grown even stronger.
During the course of my studies, Duolingo has been adding lessons and improving exercises. I appreciate and like the improvements, which I feel have increased my understanding of topics like verb tenses.
German is the language I still use the most, and it is the one I have completed all of level 1 for. I have pen pals who don’t speak English, and this has increased my need to be able to write skillfully and expand my vocabulary. Duolingo introduces practical topics that are more current than the lessons I learned so long ago. (I remember the word for reel-to-reel tape player, because I had some old books – I’m trying to move AWAY from that!) I’m moving through all the lessons in a linear fashion, and plan to complete all of level 2 this year.
Since I first studied German in the 1980s, I can think entirely in German for periods of time, so when I am too tired to study another language, I return to German.
French is my runner up, and a language I always THINK I should speak, though I mostly have reading experience. (I’ve used French transactionally in France, with success but no depth. I’m much better with written French than spoken.) The best part of the app for me with French are the listening exercises: there were sounds that I couldn’t distinguish before, that I can now! My pronunciations remain dodgy, and the app is trying to help.
Spanish is a language I have heard all my life, since I grew up in San Francisco’s Mission District, and would need to use my height to get objects off of high shelves for other people’s abuelas. Talking to abuelas only taught me NOUNS, however, so I’m using the app primarily to learn verbs and form complete sentences!
Spanish is the course where I started writing out notes on verb conjugations, and it turns out I REALLY need those for reference. My note-taking has helped improve my answers, since I recall things better when I have written them out. I also use independent references for verb conjugations. Duolingo helped me finally think a few thoughts spontaneously in Spanish, which is new and exciting.
Japanese is a recurring interest, and a language I studied independently for a brief time in the early 90s. (I learned hiragana and katakana, and tourist phrases; I have visited Japan twice on multi-week trips, and was able to translate signs for other foreigners both times.) Japanese for English speakers is a relatively new Duolingo course that I had been eagerly awaiting, and I’m really impressed by it.
This language program is INTENSE, since there are new characters to learn in nearly every lesson. It helps to be familiar with hiragana before beginning, but the program covers it, and then replaces some words you’ve learned in hiragana with their kanji equivalent, which is how students there learn kanji, I believe.
I’m finding weak spots in my katakana, and am learning that note taking for the new kanji characters is ESSENTIAL. I was clever enough to subtitle the kanji with hiragana early on, but making notes in English is a fair enough habit.
I’m learning the Japanese counting method, where the number is modified by the shape of thing being counted, and it is a tribute to Duolingo that they have introduced this gently enough that I did NOT run away screaming.
I am not super confident that I can recall some of these lessons where multiple new kanji were added, and so I may use the course differently from how I use it for other languages: instead of completing level 1 for all lessons, I may keep stepping up my levels in the early lessons until I really feel comfortable.
SO: Duolingo is a useful tool. You can set your own pace, and use it as a standalone study method (especially if you are already familiar with the languge) or as a supplement to other tools. If games and competition motivate you, you can get competitive in your ‘league’ against other students working at a similar pace. The courses are regularly improved based on the data they see across students. It has options to skip ahead and test out of levels that you are acing. I’m happy to see the addition of Japanese, and the care that went into designing the lessons.
I write in German regularly, but not fluently. What I mean is, my conversational German is okay (I can talk about my life and the weather), my transactional German is okay (I can buy shoes and order food), but my new pen pals keep raising topics I’ve never discussed in German, and so I’m learning new words. Which is GREAT! But… I don’t know how to conjugate the new verbs.
Google Translate (translate.google.com) is nearly magical in its application, and I rely on it while traveling. The image to text instant translations are AMAZING! And the translations are pretty smart. I think I’ve mentioned before that it misses context and nuance, which makes some sense: when I had large Swiss bills and smaller denominations, it offered transformation in place of change, because the nuance is a little different in German: I needed small money. But I knew enough German not to ask for transformation, so it was FINE.
Anyway, Google Translate is my go-to for trying to say new things. However, for all of its excellence, switches between conversational past (I had eaten) and simple past (I ate) in a way that distracts me, and which I don’t seem to influence by my English wording. I want to be more consistent, and this tool, which is called Reverso Conjugator, can help me!
German conjugation: conjugate a German verb with Reverso Conjugator, see German conjugation models, conjugated forms in future, participle, present, indicative.
We used conversational past in school, so simple past is kind of exciting – close to how I speak in English, but also unfamiliar in a few ways. So, I’m using it to learn, and it’s been great so far! I recommend it!
The biggest news today is that the Food and Drug Administration officially FULLY approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for adult use against COVID, which is a big deal. It doesn’t change our access to it here in the U.S., it just shows people who claimed their reluctance was based on the vaccine’s lack of full approval that their concerns have been alleviated. If that was their actual concern.
Somehow, American adults who don’t trust the vaccine specifically to protect humans against COVID do trust a livestock deworming medication which is neither for humans nor for COVID.
I do not understand this.
Old person story: Kids used to try to persuade their parents to let them do something because all of their friends were doing it, and parents used to reply by asking if they would jump off a bridge if their friends did it, which was supposed to make a point about blind conformity… but… now I suspect some of those kids could counter with, “Like the time you took horse de-worming medication to treat an unrelated illness because of something you read on Facebook? “ Which would make their parents go quiet.
The World Health Organization has been compiling the wacky things people think, to correct their strange confusion. Their myth-busting page is here:
COVID-19 Mythbusters – World Health Organization
Highlighting some of the misinformation circulating on COVID-19
When I look directly at the sun (which I should not be able to do), the sun and the light that reaches us here at ground/sea level still has a strangely orange tint. Considering the vastness of the fires in my region, this shouldn’t be a surprise.
Strangely, a colleague said a friend of hers was leaving California to avoid the wildfires. I made a face, because… leaving one state to escape the global climate emergency won’t work. (I’m not listing all the locations that have experienced floods in the news over the past month, but it is just as long a list, and it is happening for all the same reasons…) I wonder how long it will take her friend to figure that out…
Concrete edited by William Hall, with an Essay by Leonard Koren published by Phaidon Ltd., New York & London 2012
I purchased this oversized, well-illustrated book more because I love Phaidon as a publisher than because I love concrete. I certainly don’t love concrete as much as William Hall, whose introductory page made me laugh out loud over his enthusiasm and his bafflement that everyone does not share it.
I have my own strong feelings about concrete. I loved my structures class in architecture school, and, even though I prefer steel trusses and wooden glu-lams for a surprising number of purposes, I was lucky enough to have T.Y. Lin, ‘the father of pre-stressed concrete,’ come to speak at City College of San Francisco while I was attending. His work in concrete impressed me greatly, and made me fussy about its application. His applications were so damned CLEVER. Lin (who passed away in 2003) and his firm have an amazing practice with bridges AND other structures in which concrete really shows off its compressive strengths. Pre-stressing in their work also allowed concrete to be used in situations where it would otherwise be a too-heavy, too-bulky choice. The firm’s work include structures that have thin decks and crisp, curved walls because of his practice’s expertise with pre-stressing (and likely also post-tensioning, which also increases concrete’s versatility).
So my enthusiasm for concrete emphasizes using it where it can do something that steel or wood CAN’T. Arches, rings, heavy supports, thin parabolas, crisp curved shells – shapes where compression is why it was chosen.
I appreciate that there are other reasons concrete may be chosen – its versatility, ability to be shaped into many different forms, fire resistance, ability to include on-site aggregates, and so on. But if a building doesn’t have some structural sophistication that REQUIRED concrete, I’ll often give it the side eye. Not to single out the gorgeous works of Louis Barragán, but I often look at his painted walls and think aloud, “yes, but they aren’t holding anything up, so he could have done that with plaster over just about any building material.” I am disclosing this purist structural bias up front.
I have another bias, which is that I live in an area prone to earthquakes, and so I am forgiving about the fact that concrete is rarely only concrete. Here in seismically BUSY California, there is invariably steel rebar, glass fibers, or something else giving concrete tensile strength it wouldn’t ordinarily have, to keep it from dropping chunks on us when our buildings shake. The waffle ceilings of my college architecture building were designed to let the concrete crumble or crack lightly while the steel gave us time to get out in the event of a major seismic event beyond its capacity. So I (reluctantly) accept that this book on concrete is rarely about concrete by itself, because I would avoid such buildings for safety reasons! (STEEL IS AWESOME!) So, I’m conceding this point, so you will know that my weird purist bias has practical limits involving wanting us all to survive earthquakes.
But enough about me, let’s talk about me. No, wait, I mean the book!
The projects in this survey are organized by their dominant characteristics, such as mass, scale, or texture, and this works well as an organizational principle. The book is a broad mix of different programs, leaning heavily on physically larger projects where concrete makes sense. As a survey, it includes many older, established projects which are often illustrated in black and white. It may sound silly that I want to see the color of the concrete, but I DO, so for the still-extant older projects, I would have preferred newer color images of them. (Beyond the older, harshly lit photos, the older projects also reflect that formal architecture and/or recognition for it was largely closed to anyone but European men during prior eras, so even the institutional projects in Asia shown were designed by famous European architects. The later projects fare a bit bitter, generating my relief to see Ando and a few female names.)
The most impressive projects for my purposes are those where concrete was necessary due to scale or form. This means I was especially pleased by multi-unit housing projects, public libraries, and (hooray for) aerospace buildings. I made a sad face at Falling Water but a happy face at Johnson Wax. (Falling Water is reputed to be a maintenance nightmare, so if we have to do FLW, Johnson Wax is more overtly successful.) I made frowny faces at Corbu’s skinny columns and space-consuming ramps, and I have mixed feelings about the Japanese residential projects, which are too often just shown from the outside as interesting but potentially unlivable geometric objects.
The layouts across pages are quite good. Projects half a century apart may share a page spread, but they have forms in common that make points about the use of concrete over time — say, a Fiat rooftop car racing track and a concrete pool-type skate park – that are thoughtful and appealing.
This book has a good design, a good essay by Leonard Koren who – YES! – raises the environmental impacts of concrete, and some good selected works to profile, with enough information to send you in the right direction for further research. This is a pleasing addition to my Phaidon book collection.
I write legal and technical materials professionally, AND I recreationally write a range of other things. Blogs like this, web pages, a surprising number of letters and postcards, diaries, notes for stories, and fiction. Writing is something I have always enjoyed, and I am always writing something, at least for my own satisfaction.
As with so many other fiction writers, the current pandemic has been a wake up call that the popular fictional narratives we have around plagues are not accurate. Yes, in nearly every popular movie, there is a warning from scientists that goes unheeded, and there is needless suffering. Yes, there are rumors and superstitions and panics, and we see those in films and playing out similarly in real life.
Yet, the level of denial visible in real life in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic is shocking. People are devoting significant time to announcing that the pandemic is: a hoax, a domestic conspiracy (despite its global nature), a foreign plot (it is somehow not real but also a foreign bioweapon), a domestic power grab (preventing illness is oppression?), a disease carried by outsiders (again, somehow it is not real but also something strangers bring? WHAT?), something that isn’t real so they flout precautions, something that isn’t real so they sabotage the medicines (but if it isn’t real, why bother sabotaging medicines?), a situation where the vaccine is free but a counterfeit card that falsely claims you were vaccinated costs $400 (so it would be cheaper to go along with the treatment than pretend you did), a private sector plot to embed microchips into people (for generally unexplained purposes, though when they are explained, it always involves something like the location your smartphone already records, which means an additional device would not be necessary)… In this bizarre current reality, the pandemic is somehow BOTH a situation where precautions against catching the illness are banned by a governor AND a situation where that governor’s state requires federal emergency supplies of hospital ventilators and monoclonal antibody treatments for the seriously ill, which the governor suggests people somehow self-medicate with for this illness he says isn’t serious?
If I had written ANY of these things into a fiction story, my writing would have been rejected as implausible. The publishers would have told me that people are not that stupid, and that I should feel bad about making my fellow Americans look so ridiculous.
-I mean, really.
I want people in my fiction writing to be both realistic and smart, but it feels like I can only have one of those two.
I am inspired to post this after reading the tweet above, about news that a sci-fi movie has been interpreted as reality by the anti-vaccine-far-right (who failed to even grasp basic details about the movie they are basing their nonsensical conspiracies on). Their nonsense has gotten so much press that the screenwriter for this remade sci-fi movie had to make public statements emphasizing that it is fiction:
I Am Legend screenwriter dismisses anti-vax claims based on film’s plot
A sci-fi writer hits back at unfounded rumours that Covid jabs turn people into zombies.
(It is still strange to read something on Twitter and later find the tweets I read subsequently inspired news articles…)
The past several years have inspired many discussions about the death of parody in the face of an absurd reality, but the current absurd reality also is killing off the premise that the vast majority of people could consistently act intelligently. Maybe we could get to half, or nearly half, but not an overwhelming majority.
I want a future where people ARE actually intelligent. I want to WRITE futures in which people are intelligent!
I suppose my defense for stories with predominantly intelligent populations will be: yes, but I told you this is fiction.
I’m organizing some of my things for a construction project, and one of those things is my Long Playing Record (LP) collection. My first actual music “album” was an audiocassette of Rick Springfield’s Working Class Dog, and the original Sony Walkman made cassettes preferable, so I could take music with me on long transit rides (and somehow, all transit rides were long back then!).
However, records were… special. You would plop down in front of your home stereo and listen to records to listen to records, not just as background music for other things! It was a wonderful activity, and I had some enormous headphones (which surely belonged to my father) with a spiral cord that would attach me to the stereo for HOURS. But it was also good to have friends over to listen to records together.
I don’t buy records anymore, in this era of buying online and having music on many devices — who would have thought I would listen on tiny Bose earbuds to my music ON MY PHONE (!?!?!?) — but I still enjoy my collection.
I’m sharing a list of my 12″ records sorted by year recorded. This will tell you about my age (eek), and also when my core record-buying years were. Even during those years, my audio cassette purchases were high at the beginning, and my CD purchases overlapped at the end, so this isn’t a complete reflection of my music buying at the time. It does reflect music I took the time to enjoy at home, or took a risk on, since records were reasonably priced (and were what I spent my allowance and job income on). This list includes LPs (long playing records), EPs (extended playing records – collections of 2 or more songs), 12″ singles (songs too long to fit on a 45 single song record, usually because they have been remixed), and various special variations of these (versions released in other countries, picture disks, etc.).
My 12″ Records Sorted by Year of Release, then Artist Name ( 122 Items)
Bowie, David – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars — RCA — 1972
Bowie, David – Heroes — RCA — 1977
Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True — Stiff — 1977
Elvis Costello and the Attractions – Armed Forces — Columbia — 1978
B-52’s, The – The B-52’s — Warner Bros — 1979
Duran Duran – Careless Memories 12″ — Tritec — 1981
Duran Duran – Nite Romantics (Japan Edition) — EMI — 1981
Idol, Billy – Don’t Stop — Chrysalis — 1981
Adam Ant – Friend or Foe — Epic — 1982
Clash, The – Combat Rock — CBS — 1982
Culture Club – Kissing to be Clever — Virgin — 1982
Duran Duran – Carnival (Japan Edition) — Tritec — 1982
Duran Duran – Rio 12″ — EMI — 1982
Foreigner – Records — Atlantic — 1982
Madness – The Rise and Fall – — Stiff — 1982
Men At Work – Cargo — Columbia — 1982
Depeche Mode – See You (Extended Version) — Mute — 1982
Culture Club – Colour By Numbers — Virgin — 1983
Def Leppard – Pyromania — Polygram — 1983
Depeche Mode – Construction Time Again — Sire — 1983
Duran Duran – Is There Something I Should Know? 12″ — Tritec — 1983
Duran Duran – New Moon on Monday 12″ — EMI — 1983
Duran Duran – Seven and the Ragged Tiger — EMI — 1983
Duran Duran – Union of the Snake 12″ — Tritec — 1983
Echo and The Bunnymen – EP Recorded Live a tthe Royal Albert Hall — Sire — 1983
Fixx, The – Reach the Beach — MCA — 1983
Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Relax 12″ — ZTT — 1983
Palmer, Robert – Heavy Nova — EMI / Manhattan — 1988
REM – Green — Warner Bros — 1988
Smithereens, The – Green Thoughts — Enigma/Capitol — 1988
Talking Heads – Naked — Sire — 1988
Figures on a Beach – You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet 12″ — Sire — 1989
Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine — TVT — 1989
Replacements, The – Don’t Tell a Soul — Sire — 1989
(I do have more records than this, but these are the ones I’m taking responsibility for.)
I’ll (eventually) post a separate list of my audio CDs eventually, and perhaps create a “featurette” page with an inventory of my physical music collection as a whole, organized by artist, especially if I can find one of my old ’80s inventories to fill in the cassette gaps.