Sunday, September 27, 2015

Blog/Restoration Update

Photo: @ S. Banos

Yes, I know I said I was quitting ye olde blog this past spring; no, it was not yet another idle threat/cry for attention. I really did need to stop, unsure what the future held- except that I did need to concentrate on restoring the remains of my work, and attend to various family matters. Blogging was nowhere on the list and had become a burden I was quite relieved to unburden...

Fortunately, with a dozen restorations (65 MB files) under my belt, I now feel fairly confident I can restore the vast majority of my work. The remaining 10% or so are probably still reclaimable, waiting for my PS skills to improve or for restoration experts to happily volunteer their remaining days for the sake of art and humanity. Meanwhile, my main restorative kit consists of: patience, more patience, and a heapin', helping shitload of yet more (patience).

I can average one restoration about every 4-5 days, about 4-5 hrs per day (rough approx). Some take considerably longer, but little by little, pixel by pixel, they're getting done- to exhibition quality standards. Of course, one can't keep that pace up on a regular indefinite basis, particularly in one's "spare" time. Work, the family matters I've previously alluded too, and all the other crap life throws one's way have a habit of getting in the way. Sometimes, I now even enjoy throwing up the occasional blog post minus the voluntarily set schedule to adhere to as before; so do come round from time to time...

A coupla years down the line, I should have enough to self publish something to show it hasn't all been in vain  (already got a working title); and hopefully, before I get to call it a day, I should have a body of work that will testify to a life lived a few fractions of a second at a time- for laughs, for kicks, for the simple satisfaction that someone simply... noticed.

Friday, September 25, 2015

You Can Observe A Lot By Just Watching...

I'm not as much drawn to sports as when considerably younger, but even then, I was particularly drawn to those who transcended their sport, who exhibited signs of life beyond their sport, those who either impacted life head on like an Ali, or simply displayed a certain sense of irony or humor as in the case of Yogi Berra (to whom one can attribute the quote above).

And speaking of astute observations, particularly when it comes to life and its passing moments on the streets we tread daily, the name of photographer Cristophe Agou most certainly comes to mind- a good tribute here.

Thanks, and RIP guys...

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Digital vs. Analog

I had the biggest laugh of the day while shaving the other morning and first hearing about Volkswagen's special emissions reduction software that works only when... being tested for emissions. Brilliant! 

Reminds me of the time when Hyundai had to cut the weight of their cars in order to meet US gas mileage standards. Solution: take the stuffing out of their fenders. Classic!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Deny, Deny, Deny...

Now imagine, just imagine.. if people watched this video and just said, "Dang! I never knew that!" It could cause some people to stop, reflect and... possibly even think. But uh-uh, that's not happening- that thinking part's for losers! Deny-Deny-Deny... and call people a few names while you're at it.

It's the exposure, it's the lighting... it's the fact that I simply refuse to believe, evidence be damned, that they purposely skewed the film chemistry to benefit lighter skin tones- and anyone who believes that is an (anti-White) racist!

PS- And if (just saying if now) it was done, then it was strictly for economic reasons to best serve their main demographic- that's just good business sense!
PPS- Exactly, like... slavery, just business.

"In the last decade it has become clear to those who seek out this information that the chemistry for stock colour film for still cameras was designed originally with a positive bias for "Caucasian" skin tones because of its high level of reflectivity. (Personal interviews with multiple chemists and film designers at Kodak, Rochester, NY, 1995; Winston, 1985, 1996)."

"It was also believed at the time that physics was physics, chemistry was chemistry, and science was based on reasoned decisions without consideration of cultural or racial subtleties. It is now becoming acknowledged more widely within the industry that refinements to the chemistry of film emulsions have never been issues of physics or chemistry exclusively, but have been the result of cultural choices as well."   -Prof. Lorna Roth

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Donald Mussolini

Professionals with a lot more experience, who are paid a helluva lot more than me, have somehow yet to make the most obvious of obvious comparisons. The boasts, the posturing, the smirking disdain, absolute arrogance and utter disregard for anything resembling the truth; all so frighteningly  parallel and irrefutable, despite the disparities of time, ethnicity and  geographical location. 

And yet, in this age when we may repeat the same said mistake, with the same sad and sorry said consequences-  I have yet to see this most relevant of comparisons...  anywhere.

Chris Hedges- "Civilizations in the final stages of decay are dominated by elites out of touch with reality."

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

American (Non)Jurisprudence

Monday morning before work I was hit with a double dose of how monumentally insane our court system in these Semi-United States has become. One video lays out how utterly and completely fucked you are if you are poor (a lawyer will be provided for you- for say... 7 minutes); the other describes just how determined the judicial system can be to guarantee they kiss your ass into eternity- no matter what the evidence says...

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Bruce Almighty!

Photo: Bruce Gilden
Photo: Bruce Gilden
Been a fan of Bruce Gilden's for quite some time, but even I was somewhat taken aback by some of his most recent offerings via his color Face portraits. They almost seem a cartoonish caricature of his earlier work. Has he finally crossed the fine line he's always tread between borderline art-shock and what the hell, pull the plug freak out? And just where is that ever moving, fine line located? Where was it drawn in modern music: the "race music" appropriated by Elvis, the Beatles' long hair, the polysexual costume excess of glamrock, or the NSFW lyrics of Hip Hop?

Face draws you in like a bad car accident ("like ruin porn, fascinating for five minutes," said one commenter); has Gilden now fully embraced shock value for its own sake- or are we the ones doing the dehumanizing by further reducing these images, and therefore the people they portray, to the likes of a car accident? 

This ain't a critique on the images themselves, which I admittedly am somewhat ambivalent about. And isn't that one of the hallmarks of great art, that which divides, shocks and more importantly- makes us think?  This is not so much about "Gilden, right or wrong," but about the reactions he so willingly (and knowingly) creates. Indeed, the comments to this article are well worth more than the original piece itself... all 476 of them!

Unfortunately, many of the commenters believe that Gilden turned his subjects into freakish ghouls and freaks via Photoshop, when in fact, the distortion they speak of came mostly through the use of a short lens used up close and personal with direct flash. Some are not only mistaken about how he achieved his results, but even go unto producing a bit of revisionist photo history to back up their claims. More than one comment tells us of how Arbus not only covered this ground previously, but also did it in a more openly emphatic manner that both humanized and endeared her subjects to us all. One commenter actually stated that at least "Arbus photographed them as they wanted to be posed." Really? I suppose none of that particular crowd ever read how she was roundly criticized for objectifying and dehumanizing her subjects!

And while many, if not most found his portraiture "obscene" or "robbed of humanity," others found it quite beautiful indeed- "can't help but notice how beautiful the eyes of his subjects are." More than one found them a most welcomed relief from the "orange blobs with teeth" that so many celebrity portraits look like today. Kim Kardashian's visage frequently came up as the modern day icon of a photographically manipulated freak.

Some seemed completely oblivious to the obvious lens distortion, swearing that these are what these people actually look like, and I have to wonder if at least some of those espousing Mr. Gilden's refreshingly warts and all look are also happy that while it's good we have people that look like that, they are also quite relieved to not be one of them.

Some savvy commenters noticed that while Sean O'Hagan's article stated that Mr. Gilden had obtained releases for his subject's photos, he failed to state if they were obtained before or after they actually saw the results. That wouldn't have particularly spoken as to their relevancy as works of art, but perhaps more to the integrity of the photographer himself. Either way, Gilden definitely doesn't give a flyin'. Question is, are his images strictly predatory and abusive- and if so, are we being superficial for liking them, or just as superficial for dismissing them offhand... One of the second hallmarks of great art is how much it reveals about ourselves.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Photo: © S. Banos

A) Separated form the herd, battery depleted, instinct would somehow have to take over.

B) Banned from high tech data mining, the NSA would now have to rely on more basic forms of cunning and deception, camouflage proved primitive but effective.

C) Conservative Family Values Advocate and Ashley Madison account holder Josh Duggar arranges nearby tryst despite...

D) Deposed Ashley Madison CEO Noel Biderman concedes...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Hubbard's Lament

There's a lot that Ms. Hubbard gets right here, a considerable amount she also disregards or glosses over. Of course, White folk will be cheering this on as righteous affirmation that everything they say and believe is absolutely true, case closed- while the facts, and the truth are so infinitely more nuanced. 

As an inner city teacher of adolescents who were officially classified as "Extremely Emotionally Disturbed & Socially Maladjusted," one quickly observed and realized (again- depending if one had both eyes open) that there was blame aplenty to go around on all sides: parents (or lack thereof), school teachers and administrators, clergy, police, and even the children themselves... yes, society as a whole from the President on down. Plenty of blame- and plenty of reasons. The latter are often shoved aside or conveniently ignored, the former usually short or one sided, and the solutions ranging from ineffective, to non existent.

You can't effectively address, confront or attempt to remedy this madness of spiraling crime and violence without effectively including all sides concerned. And so much of the insanity that occurs within the inner city is a direct result of what occurs (or doesn't occur) far outside it. First and foremost, if there are no jobs to be had in the hood, then you pretty much have to give people the credit for creating them- and you know where those self made jobs are going to be... cue in: drugs, guns and death. Also see: the never ending cycle of crime, incarceration and despair that doesn't just suck in individual lives, but entire generations. What use are good decent schools in the inner city (when they do exist) if there are no institutions of higher learning that are affordable; and ultimately, if there are no jobs or opportunities to be had for all that desperately need and want them- not just for the handful that somehow manage to succeed beyond every and all possible obstacles!

Yes, it's easy to blame individuals for lack of personal responsibility, and individuals certainly must take responsibility- but how can anyone be expected to succeed in a society that has given up on them and cast them aside, looking their way only when the situation inevitably arises to cast blame, and accusation... or as a possible source of personal revenue in one of the few growth industries left in the country- the prison industrial complex.

Education is not held in very high esteem by much of "minority" youth, often it's looked upon more as a sad joke than anything else, something for other people with lighter skin in another world where they don't have bullets buzzing by their heads. Those scant few grants and scholarships, and those far fetched possibilities cannot protect you from the violence all around you each and every day.

Cops are not concerned with societal cause and effect, they want to go home in one piece to their nice peaceful neighborhoods where some measure of hope and sanity can still be salvaged. They don't have any skin in the game other than their own, "Protect and Serve" starts and ends with them.

So yes, Peggy, it's a goddamn shame that little girl was killed by one of her own, and the idiot that died by the gun (like so many others, before and after in his circumstances) got what he gave; but you really should know that TV's talking heads wouldn't have covered her death anyway, and countless others just like her. They both died statistics, together in their separate world.

This madness is all consuming, it sucks the very life out of you even if you survive it. Every inner city is a little Iraq and Afghanistan where PTSD runs rampant at every age and every household. To succumb to a one sided blame game is both very human, and very understandable. Ultimately, it just continues to perpetuate and conceal the very madness it so inadequately seeks to address.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

(Way!) Long Overdue Tech!

Bet people would have been salivating just to stand in line for a chance to buy this simple piece of low budget, common sense tech back in the day. Don't have the need to use one anytime soon myself- only question is... Why'd it take so freakin' long!?!?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Diary Of A Teenage Girl

No moralizing here, we're watching this develop from the mind of a fifteen year old girl who wants to grow up fast, and finds herself ensnared in a world she cannot possibly begin to understand or fathom- not that any of us can at any age. And Diary of a Teenage Girl does a bang up job of showing just how confusing, hypocritical and thoroughly maddening adults have made this world we live in, and in so doing, defy our offspring to do better.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Return Of The (Analog) Prodigal

Photo: © S. Banos

Alas, my ever so brief, ever not so torrid, middle aged, digital affair has reached its natural conclusion- and fortunately without regret, despite the fact that it did not achieve its intended consequence... becoming my go to, do everything, photographic imaging device from now till...

Photo: © S. Banos

The Fujifilm XT-1 is one very beautiful, very capable performer; truth is, it can do it all- but its strengths do not particularly suit my needs, and to be fair, its one major weakness is shared by all mirrorless cameras of its ilk- namely, its much touted EVF, which constantly reminded me of a '60s era color TV. Fine in the shade, better in the dark- but mediocre at very best in sunlight, changing or contrasty lighting situations. If I was a color aficionado, I would probably just shut up and persevere, the resulting images being that good. And it was fun seeing a few color images after decades of B&W.

But novelty fades and I'm back in my monochrome world of reality, and you can't beat starting out with the image qualities you desire most in film from the get go- rather than struggling to replicate them to one degree or another in post. If I could afford it, I'd be tempted to keep it, despite my vow to simplify. That said, I will definitely miss its quiet stealth, low light capability and 1:1 crop, but I'll continue to get what I require most from what I've already used for millennia. When the EVF looks as good as the LCD on the rear of the camera, I may just have another look see- in the meantime, it's on to eBay...

Photo: © S. Banos

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Stanford Prison Experiment

A few observations on The Stanford Prison Experiment:

1) First, the age old truism of what can happen when ya give someone a uniform.

2) How closely the study environment resembled a real life prison- and how true to life the accompanying results mimicked real life prison culture (in just 6 days), from Attica to Abu Ghraib.

3) How big a dick Dr. Philip G. Zimbardo was at the time for allowing himself to become so personally involved in the study and not conducting the "experiment" as an actual scientific experiment, so that his research and conclusions would be beyond reproach.

4) How easy it is to create a Nazi (see #1)- although can't help but think had the study been done with some say... students from NYC (rather than the burbs of CA), the "prisoners" would have been considerably more rebellious- though with probably similar results, considerably faster.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

My Not So Torrid, Middle Aged, Digital Fling

After decades of rigorously maintained analog self control and moderation, the very first chance I got a little extra change in my pocket, I immediately made a play for the young hot bod housed in the petite looker known as the Fujifilm XT-1 (complete w/14mm). The mere sight of her drove me crazy with desire- all those buttons and dials to press and caress amidst her tight young curves... OK- Enuf.
Love those muted greens.   All Photos: © S. Banos

Yes, the XT-1 can deliver the goods, it has also driven me half crazy getting to know it. The first few days were absolutely maddening- pressing every wrong button for every wrong reason (purposely and accidentally). We're a tad more acquainted now, starting to respect each other's space and preferences. Still, there is a very palpable tension between us...

The main drawback remains the EVF which may be the best out there, but still looks like a vintage era color TV from the '60s if you ask me. It's especially annoying in changing, contrasty light, as well as sunlight, where seeing what's in the shadows is particularly difficult- particularly ironic since one thing this camera can do is render shadow detail extraordinary well! The body is superbly compact but that also causes one to push things one doesn't want to- at least I'm getting familiar with how to undo it. 

Did notice slight shutter lag for high speed action shots.

I came back from my initial real life, field test (see results) fully prepared to put it up for sale on eBay. It hadn't been a fun experience, and had really missed my Nikon analogs. If there's no joy in the actual experience- what is there? Case closed. But before I got to actually packaging the camera away, I decided to take a look at said photos, and... First, there were the colors (and you must understand that except for a literal handful of SX-70 shots, I have not shot color since 1978), some lovely reds and muted greens- Wow! And it complemented the compositions, it wasn't just filler. OK, fine- but back to reality, I still wanted to know how it performed as a tool for B&W. I completed my first B&W conversion, and it came out... OK. Amazingly, while the color corrections took mere minutes, it was still a slow drive getting the local tonalities in B&W down pat (although selections were easier). But in the end, it still had that plasticky digital look- it needed.... grain. It had to have grain to feel "real." Fake grain for authenticity, Stan? Really? Yes, it's one slippery slope...

The self professed "King of  Pain." Yes, that is a taser. Yes, that is a (very) sensitive area.

I had read how grain software was pretty awful at best, but reluctantly went ahead and... I've been looking at 35mm Tri-X grain for decades, and this fake shit looked looked pretty damn good to me. Scanning B&W negs somewhat exaggerates grain, so I didn't pump it up as much (the grain software can be infinitely massaged or intensified) as it appears on my scans, gave it more a Plus-X feel- but it was enough to soothe the craving, and rid the image of its digital curse. It had achieved the look and feel of B&W film.

Relationships- they need constant work and attention.

So is everything copacetic? Not really, I may still sell it. Or I may sell all my analog film stuff to finance 28 and 40mm equivalents. I honestly don't know right now, but I can't afford to keep both. The film cameras are fun, simplicity and ease in the field- they can also last me a lifetime. The digital is more a working tool with various perks, like getting color & B&W (and a 1:1 crop) on demand. It's definitely not a one night stand, I just don't know if we're ready to commit just yet.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Trump Coward Family

No matter how much money I've inherited and made on the backs of others- I'm still a little shit... And look- I can prove it!!!

I have nothing against hunters who actually eat what they kill- I'd be some kinda hypocrite otherwise, since I eat meat. As far as these Big Bawanas who wanna prove how big theirs are by shooting defenseless animals for... sport are concerned- if you want to prove your manhood with a gun, there's many a government sanctioned organization that will happily send you off where you can "be all that you can be." But these Trumps, Nugents and lying dentists are just cowards to the core.