Thursday, January 31, 2013

I Remain, an A-Theist

Yes, I am against Theism!

Maimonides said that Yahweh is wholly other. No prob, dude!

Theism sounds devoid of purpose and it yields no great understanding nor special comforts in my quest to continue breathing for as long as humanly possible.

I am in favor of cherishing that which lives, and using what abilities I have to guide the systems that let life flower or lead to its demise.

One is not meant to answer questions about one's religion...

One does not.

I lean along the lines of Hindi writers, which lets me say I study Hindu thought.

I also study Buddhist thought, and the history of Christianity and of Islam.

I am in the middle of trying to figure out what the natural relations of Christians and Muslims would be, given that Muslims accept that Jesus the Christ was indeed a prophet. Is their Allah the Christian God? Etc.

We are interfered by news of the bellicosity of the governors of what is now called Israel.

For the moment, my favorite pagan gods are Kali and Ganesh. I know nothing about them other than that one is a blue elephant who assists in one's prosperity, and one has many arms.

My favorite and only God is the father of Jesus of Nazareth, whether He exists, or whether he is a figment only.

Whom or what does one rightly worship? Oneself? I cannot do so, as I suck, generally.

I am a Human Being, a woman who never forgets, and though I am not armed, I have many arms, and am a law-abiding Citizen of my native homeland, CANADA, which I do adore.

God, can you Bless America? Or did we the Residents blow it already? If the latter, I hope I am a sister in Christ. If I am not, it is all worse than I can know.

--Caroline Atamanchuk-Collins, descended from the Revered Thomas Larkham of various locales, circa 1650.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Bring on the Drama

The photographer's art is making the mundane seem less ordinary, more dramatic, than it seems to the naked eye. We do this a few ways. Call them techniques, or call them cheap tricks. They usually work!

Isolation: Take something that is normally seen in context, remove the context, and there's a new drama to a simple object. You could photograph a dancer on a stage, or you could photograph her in a studio doing the same moves. Chances are, the studio shot will outshine the in-context stage shot. The use of heavy "bokeh" (out-of-focus elements in a partly focused field of view) also isolates that which the photographer wishes to present out of context.

Juxtaposition: Using a contrast between two opposed ideas or symbols is another way to isolate a subject. If we show protesters holding up God Hates Fags signs, we should show them in front of a billboard depicting a great homosexual contributor to our society. A puppy is just a puppy, until you put it near the jaws of an alligator. A flower is beautiful, but not terribly dramatic as a photographic subject. A flower lying in a dirty gutter addresses feelings of loss, despair, and resignation.

Absence: Tire-tracks can say more about a road than moving vehicles do. A vigorous performer can be captured backstage, exhausted and without his audience, and say more about how hard he works than he can when we see him moving enthusiastically in front of his adoring fans.

The ultimate poignance is found in pictures of 9/11's "ground zero," everything there except what is supposed to be there, the World Trade Center.

Enhancement: Motion blur connotes fast action. Bokeh adds mystery by taking out specifics. Tweaks to saturation can add and subtract realism from an image. Conversion to black and white is a kind of enhancement through subtraction. By removing unnecessary color information, the photographer directs attention to tones and contours that would otherwise be buried in psychedelic controversy.

Echoing: This means finding scenes where the lines or mass of one object are repeated, possibly at a different scale, in another object of the background. Picture a sleeping lion backed by golden hills, the curves of the flesh making the same lines as the hills in the background.

Plain old line work: We see this in any "tunnel" shot where lines recede to a vanishing point in the distance. We also see this in many commonplace photos, where lines on a road, a building, or any other straight-sided entity combine to emphasize or enhance the subject. Perhaps the lines in the greater field of view echo those in the subject. Perhaps they point to it, converging on the center of interest. Regardless, good lines are appealing to the eye and can make a mundane item seem extraordinary.

I'll be working into this essay if I think of anything else we do to make the ordinary worth looking at again and again, for its beauty, singularity, and yes, drama.

Why You Hate Flower Macros

--Flowers are inanimate and unchallenging to shoot. There's no need to snap the shutter at just the right moment. Insect shots fare better than do flower shots, by way of illustration. The person who shoots a dragonfly hovering above a pond will do far better than does the one who shoots just the waterlilies.

--You hate flower macros because they represent the feminine. You are manly and aggressive; the soft, pretty petals of an old rose are ladylike, weak.

--You might think of flowers as Other People's Art (OPA), and dismiss them the way I dismiss pictures of buildings, which are another category of OPA. Though many pretty flowers are the results of humanity's hybridization efforts, and therefore works of some kind of art, flowers are also, in a broader sense, fait accompli when we come upon them, regardless of the origin of their beauty. Whether you cite your god or the marvelous unfolding of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, the beauty you see when you view a flower is less the photographer's accomplishment than it is a natural fact of the world you live in. So, rather than having captured an ironic street scene, framed and timed with your expert eye, you have really just seen something pretty and pointed a lens at it...something "anyone" can do. And worse, there's no irony!

I don't love most OPA shots. I have trouble praising those who shoot vintage cars, old buildings, neon signs, and even sunsets, though I have made a study of the sunrises I see from my living room above the Port of Los Angeles. As with flowers, we only see a screenshot of that what is beautiful, and owes its beauty to something other than the photographer's talent.

I love flower macros. I love the patterning in the elements of a flower, whether it's the mathematically perfect petal arrangement of a formal double Camelia japonica, the elaborate layout of the seeds in a sunflower's center, or the spiral arrangement of the leaves of an agave.

Not only does the rebel in me enjoy loving an innocent beauty that is despised by the majority, but my family's roots are in working the land. I see every plant and every flower as the outcome of a wondrous transformation when a seed, some soil, and some water conspire to break the earth, reach the sky, and release to the breeze the pollen that will make more seeds, more breaking and reaching and pollenating, and yes, more sighs at the beauty of it all.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Photographing Poor People

I have so many objections to street photography depicting the homeless that I felt the need to get them all down. Some are personal, some are political. I'd love to hear from you if any of my reasons resonate with you.

1. Unattractive: We usually avoiding looking at the homeless outdoors. Why make it hard for us indoors?

2. Elitist: By documenting the "otherness" of your homeless subject, you inherently separate yourself from his milieu and cannot avoid condescension.

3. Not sympathetic: Well, how would you like being photographed at your worst?

4. Not brave: Not when compared to asking a beautiful stranger if you can photographer her as she shops.

5. Trendy and facile: The excesses of an era are easy to document. Got anything else?

6. Self-serving: Always meant to indicate an eye for depth or pathos, they bring about such reactions only in the artistically naive.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Meeting "Pierre Honeyman" tonight

This will be the second Flickr member I have met in the flesh. The first was OrbitGal, who did not disappoint.

The plan is to watch the Canucks play the Bruins, an away game, in a pub with outdoor seating. God only knows how I'll make my way back to my hotel after the game. Win or lose, Canucks fans take to the streets after big games, and make their feelings known.

I am tempted to go home with a Canucks jersey, but I think it would be one of of those souvenirs that, when examined soberly in Southern California, seems like a waste of money.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Angry Lizard says Evolution Sucks

If this were the Jurassic period, you'd be in a world of hurt!


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Expanded Exhortation

Follow me on Twitter. Run fast and bring food.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

What the Well-Dressed Cancer Patient is Wearing

It began like any other crummy day. Three appointments at City of Hope, no food, a liter of contrast coursing through what's left of my GI tract, and a long-ass drive. I was late leaving and needed gas, more fool me. Roaring up the 605, I realized something inconvenient was going on with my ostomy and the chalky nectar of discernment I'd been forced to chug since the night before.

I arrived CofH in a fix. The worst had happened. I gimped around to my van's sliding door and clambored in the back. Bathing supplies: Cold tea; Taco Bell napkins.

There were some clothes. But they were MY clothes. My friends know what that means. I selected an off the shoulder black chiffon cocktail dress, sheath style, with a ruffle down the left. I topped it with an orange t-shirt, the only thing I had for a cover-up.  I made a slip out of a lime green undershirt...and why NOT wear clogs with a cocktail dress?

Thus assembled, I jogged to my first appointment, bloodwork. Uneventful, except for a lively chat in a cougar-ish vein with the phlebotomist. He's 30 but he's no dummy.

Now showtime. I strode manfully to the CT building.I waded through a blowsy, waist-high meadow the hospital had paid a lot to install. I deserved and had a hit of pot, worrying only a little about starting a brushfire.  I checked into the CT waiting room, just in time and in fine form.

It all turned to crud as the pot hit my brain, on top of the nerves, on top of the earlier ordeal, on top of the white chalky beveraes, and my empty stomach. I began to worry beyond relief that the day's news would be that I had a terminal recurrence. Sweating and probably Michael Jackson-white, I could hear my heart pounding from somewhere down the corridor.

People barf and leak madly at City of Hope, so dying quietly in your chair is not a big deal. I nonetheless signaled the clerk, Robert, that I was in trouble. My communication began with speech and ended with limp hand signals. Nice ladies took me to the PET-CT area to rest. "These people saved my life," I blurted, in reference to a fateful PET-CT scan, as I was led to a recliner to rest. Warm blankets and a few jarring cell phone rings later, I was led to the CT lab and rode the tube.

I knew that there was someone in the next room trained to look at my liver and essentially know how many more mortgage payments I would be making. I was glad there was giggling and gay chatter from the radiologist's station. They were comparing the current scan to the previous one; if all they wanted to talk about was happy hour at Applebee's, I felt good.

After the scan, I legged it in the Swedish footwear to Dr. Lim's clinic. Naturally, I was sobbing in terror when he walked in a few seconds later. He said in his direct Chinese way, "Why you crying? Already got results?" I came back with, "NO! Do you?," horrified by that "already," of course. He didn't have results of any kind.

The exam commenced. Dr. Lim palpated my liver, nodes, etc. He told me his mother had died that morning. (Again, it's a City of Hope thing.) I said I was very sorry, and added that she had had a good son. No, he said. Good doctor? I suggested. No, he rejoined. Okay doctor?, I tried. No, he countered. So-so doctor, he concluded. He likes to talk about Canada, and I had a new Vancouver Olympics pin in my purse, which I gave to him. It cheered him a little. There were marijuana crumbs all over it, though, and I felt I had to let him know. He said "I don't care," and pocketed the item, in his direct Chinese way. He'd kindly said something similar when I had apologized for an unfortunate stain on my lime green slip, "I don't care about that." I wanted him to divorce his wife and marry me at that point; a man like that is the only kind of man for me.

Then we looked at my scan. I decided to watch Dr. Lim's face rather than the screen. I am a social scientist, not a radiologist. He's impassive, of course, so I quit that right away and looked at the fucking screen. My liver with no unwanted white or black spots. Just my good old liver, as it has appeared since about June of 2008, after the first 6 Taxol/Carbo/Xeloda sessions. My pelvis showed nothing of interest, other than the absence of a rectum and anus. Dr. Lim said he saw showed nothing of obvious concern, and that I should check with my liver surgeon, Joe Kim, M.D.

I was then sent to have my port flushed. A stunning middle-aged woman did that for me. I noticed her Korean accent and ended up sharing photos of the Little Empress, my niece. She's half Korean.

So...does that tell the story?

Thanks to everyone who's here from the rare cancer group. My case is an inspiration...not me. My incredible good fortune.

The photo is of me when I got home. I call it, "What the well-dressed cancer patient is wearing," with gratitude always to PG Wodehouse. I read about that damned cow creamer for the 5th or 6th time on the night I got my first chemo. I see Bill at the foot of my bed, telling me that Dr. Hainsworth got a complete response in 4 out of 12 patients. Bill was impressed that John Hainsworth got a 30% success rate and wanted to try it on me. Later on, in the same chair, I see the nurse Erin in the dark, telling me about her absent breasts and her own prognosis and kid and her pets and ex.

Goddammit. No one else, please no one else.

And thus ends day number 849 of being a professional cancer recipient. The work sucks but the pay is great.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Charis Wilson | 1914-2009 -

Nice piece. I love what Weston said about meeing Charis. It's in the little photo gallery down the left.

Link: Charis Wilson | 1914-2009 -

Monday, November 23, 2009

Herbal remedies need real scrutiny -

From this it would seem that marijuana is an herbal remedy, not a drug, under the law.

"The DSHEA law draws a line between synthesized medicines like aspirin and remedies made from herbs, minerals, vitamins and amino acids. This latter group was recategorized as "dietary supplements" -- that is, as foods rather than drugs."

Link: Herbal remedies need real scrutiny -

Does the FDA police any other herbal remedies? Any other herbal toxins for that matter?

Tricked-Out Inflatable House Provides “Instant Survival” | Wired Science |

I want one, but this article gives new meaning to "vaporware." The airhouse seems to be CGI.

Link: Tricked-Out Inflatable House Provides “Instant Survival” | Wired Science |

Garden sheds, car covers, lotsa cool things are possible.

Inflatable photo booth houses 11-megapixel camera, fun | Crave - CNET

Op-Ed Contributor - Animal, Vegetable, Miserable -

We were to the Farm Sanctuary yesterday and met and touched donkeys, cows, goats, and sheep. We also saw turkeys, ducks, and geese. Also rabbits and chickens.

The place is gorgeous and beautifully kept; it seems two donkeys are up for adoption.

I do suggest that you visit if you're every on I-5 passing through Orland. We also visited Red Bluffs, which had some charming features.

Link: Op-Ed Contributor - Animal, Vegetable, Miserable -

Are your beliefs about animals different from his?

Kanye West: Close, but not the same cigar*

Kanye West was getting close to something when he said George Bush doesn't care about black people. Actually, George Bush did care about black people, and every kind of people.

It's Wall Street who doesn't care about black people, or any kind of people.

Any President's intentions, filtered through the influence of Wall Street's highest paid prostitutes, end up appearing to make no sense. We are seeing this again with President Obama. We had an idea before he was elected of how he'd like things to turn out, but he is having trouble getting from A to B. Who's stopping him? I think the Krugman piece cited below gets to that question.


* Who said this? Evan Heit?

Op-Ed Columnist - The Phantom Menace -

Of some interest to the Maloney gang. Krugman opining about what's really going on.

Link: Op-Ed Columnist - The Phantom Menace -

Saturday, November 21, 2009

HubPages: 7 Things We Did to Beat Squidoo (Case of “less is more”)

I started dabbling in recently. You can write articles about any topic you know well, and if your work gets good traffic you will be paid. The brilliant thing is that you may write about whatever you wish, as long as you are informative, authoritative, and suitable for all audiences. At competitors like Demand Studios, writers must choose among very narrowly defined topics, many of which are quite esoteric and in this writer's view, not worth the effort of researching for the small financial gain of $7.50 in most cases. offers more freedom and hence will end up attracting the best writers. Demand Media, meanwhile, has begun offerng some limited health benefits to prolific authors of articles and videos for Demand Studios, their online content creation factory.

Link: HubPages: 7 Things We Did to Beat Squidoo (Case of “less is more”)

Op-Ed Contributor - Protect the Farm, Tax the Manor -

Bereft of logic!

Link: Op-Ed Contributor - Protect the Farm, Tax the Manor -

"Thus, while a person who earns $200,000 by working must contribute more than $50,000 in federal taxes, a person who inherits $200,000, or even $200 million, pays no income taxes at all." Yes, he would pay income tax on his salary that year. And next year, when the other guy inherits, they both pay tax on their salaries and the other guys does not have to pay tax on his inheritance.

Me: If you can't get wealthy enough to retire and then allow your kids to retire early on what's left over, how is this a free country? It means people are being FORCED to work. Weird.

The estate tax system provides an essential counterpoint to this giveaway. American estate tax rates have been as high as 77 percent, so 55 percent would be reasonable when coupled with a general exemption of $1 million to $2 million.

Me: How does a crazy figure like 77% justify a crazy figure of 55%? To me it says the people who set these figures are nuts, so why trust anything they come up with? I think inheritance is similar to a cap gain--passive income. 15% across the board.

The naifs that set these rules think being rich is easy. It isn't. You just have more expensive problems.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Simple Dollar » Selling My Future, One Dollar At A Time

We can generate a rule of thumb for this. I think the guy is nuts wrt to 10%, of course, but in his world, every dollar he saves comes back five-fold if he invests it instead. So as he shops he can look at the real cost of every thing he wants. The ten buck DVD is really 50 bucks in opp'y costs. We can work out a metric like this for gold and silver. Hey, pick your own metric based on your predictions about the stock market and gold and inflation. Either way, having a "multiple in mind" while you fondle the merch is probably a great tool to aid investing versus splurging with your earnings. (Hey Mike--I can't even call it "money" any more!)

Link: The Simple Dollar » Selling My Future, One Dollar At A Time

Op-Ed Columnist - The Big Squander -

This explains the AIG atrocity well, even if you disagree with his ideas about it.

Link: Op-Ed Columnist - The Big Squander -

Monday, November 16, 2009