Random (and not-so-random) Thoughts

So... How I got here.  17 August 2022

 

Before I start, understand that I have had a wonderful career in photography.  It has taken me all over the world to places, in some cases, that people only dream about.  Africa. South and Central America. I have watched a Navy fighter, the famous F-14, being built and then flew in it when it was ready for deployment. Landing on and departing from an aircraft carrier is truly one of the most visceral experiences on earth. I've photographed births and deaths, disasters and celebrations. I've been blessed in so many ways to see and experience things both beautiful and horrendous.  My time covering the military taught me the meaning of dedication, true patriotism, sacrifice and brotherhood - and sisterhood! Photographing aircraft in flight became a specialty and there are few things created by mankind that are more impressive... I often described those shoots as sitting on God's front porch because looking down at the planet through the open door of an aircraft in flight is a view that is like no other. These things are the just a few of the reasons I have stuck with my photographic obsession.

 

Times, though, have gotten tough as my years advance. I have a GoFundMe campaign but it's pretty much a dud. The address of the campaign is https://www.gofundme.com/f/growing-during-postcovid if  you'd like to help.  Everything would be appreciated.

 

I DO get emails, Linkedin and FB messages asking how it got to where I am now, so I thought I'd pass this along.  Next to nobody is likely to read this, but the writer in me just feels like hey, what the hell.  It's basically how I got here and a treatise, if you will, on what it can really be like on the margins of self-employment. I came out to Phoenix in 1992 to work,freelance for aerospace clients I'd developed and to also get away from the insane costs of living (and doing business) in Connecticut and New York. For a while it worked out, until my soon-to-be ex-wife got to the point of not being about to walk past a line of coke or a bottle of Jack Daniels nor keep her vows. Divorce. The three girls stayed with mom, the two boys stayed with me.  Former in-laws, who define and live all the stereotypical bad in-law hyperbole, have steadfastly ignored the boys in favor of the girls, mainly because their daughter (who is now on husband number 5) insists that it was all my fault that she had to screw someone she wasn't married to... and they bought it.  Heaven forbid they should look like they raised someone like her.  Nevertheless, I developed and serviced clients ranging from a 501(c)(3) foundation serving owners on 40s vintage single engine aircraft, to Lufthansa, United and America West Airlines.

 

Fast forward to the mid 90s. Having met a group out of Santa Monica who were building an amazing experimental aircraft, the boys and I moved to the California coast to work for them. For a couple years it worked out; we built an amazing machine, raced it a couple times at the Reno Air Races, and sold a couple dozen kits for homebuilders to put together. Being an actual successful business was not something that set well with the principals, however.  Even getting parts from a supplier, reliably, was beyond one of the owners, who despite three UCLA undergraduate and graduate degrees in business couldn't load parts into his station wagon and get them to the shop much less balance the books.  Add to that he was literally a hopeless romantic who had the bad luck to cast his heart to a woman the co-owner (a man of singular self focus) had set his sights on.  Now, the New Yorker in me believes that the romance between owner number 2 and the woman who came from a very wealthy family was at least in part due to the size of her checkbook.  We'll never know.  She died when a critical part in her aerobatic aircraft that he designed and installed failed and she didn't survive the accident it is believed to have caused.  Bottom line, after owner number one sold company to owner number two and his financial angel, the company basically went Tango Uniform, mostly because the "by guess and by golly engineering" that went into the design never quite obeyed the laws of aerodynamics and the aircraft has a safety record only slightly better than the infamous Bede Jet. When last I heard, owner 2 was trying his hand operating a deli/fast food joint in Big Bear.

 

So, I puttered along, working for a number of aerospace and cinematography clients, going to the beach with the boys, and having a great time until the 3rd grade teacher of my youngest came down with HEP C and could not teach. LA Unified school district, being what it was at that time, didn't hire another 3rd grade teacher, or meld them into other 3rd grade classes (which were already overcrowded) or even hire substitutes. They just took all the 3rd graders and dropped them into the 2nd grade classes that weren't as crowded as the 3rd grade classes. Now, when you have a very smart kid who is working above grade level across the board in 3rd grade, and drop him into a 2nd grade class, half the students of which have yet to finish their ESL instruction, boredom becomes and issue, and soon, a problem. So the youngest is enrolled in a good school back in Phoenix, where bio-mom has promised to take good care of him, and back he goes.  Big, big mistake.  Bio-mom has lost the house i quitclaimed to her, and moved 3 girls and now a young boy into a two bedroom apartment in a dodgey neighborhood. Husband number 3 comes into the picture, moves them all into a four bedroom house and, because of both his behavior and my looking into his past, a year-long battle with him brings my oldest and I back to Phoenix.  He was a serial check-kiter, managing to basically steal, with bad checks, nearly $250,000 from CompUSA and Best Buy before he was brought to justice and sentenced to 9 years in prison.  Amazingly, despite all the evidence against him, bio-granddad and grandma use their Connecticut house as collateral for his bond, right up to the time he stole one of bio-mom's cars, filled it with his (and her) stuff and tried to head to Mexico. He was caught, bond was revoked,and off to the pokey he went. You can't make this stuff up. It's public record -  as well as a front page story in the Phoenix New Times magazine.

 

Another couple husbands and bio-mom moves to Utah with number 5, which makes it easier to ignore the boys, which she has turned into an art form.  Meanwhile, oldest moves to Iowa and starts a family with a beautiful girl named Avala.  Youngest, has had a tough time of it for a variety of reasons, but one day at a time he is fighting his demons and beginning to thrive again.

 

So, back in Arizona I begin to rebuild my career, again.  I found a good number of new clients, including Landmark Aviation, operators of a large number of Fixed Base Operators (which are basically fueling and maintenance facilities for business and personal aircraft) throughout the United States and Canada.  In 2006, a conversation with my marketing contact at Landmark ends with an offer to photograph all 45 of their facilities. I accepted and my oldest and I embarked on a 9,000 mile trip from LA to Palm Beach to New York to Vancouver. It was a wonderful, incredibly productive time, making hundreds of portraits and shots of their beautiful facilities.  An interesting sidelight, my son, who thought my business travel was little more than a paid vacation, was asking, after about a third of the way, if I knew anybody in Georgia whose house we could stay at because he was tired of hotels and restaurants.

 

Using much of what I earned on that trip, I opened a small photographic studio in Scottsdale. It was something I'd thought about for years, and finally decided to it.  It was a completely different photographic experience and amazing learning opportunity.  I shot fashion, automotive and began working with art galleries shooting sculpture, ceramics and flat art.  One gallery owner invited me to illustrate a book documenting one of the largest private collections of Native American art in the world.  During that six month project I photographed a number of priceless centuries old pottery as well as contemporary works by world class Native American artists.  For a couple years it was a dream come true.  Steady work, talented assistants and a growing client list.  Then, two things happened, both completely beyond my control.

 

2008, first, the Great Recession, and my client list virtually disappeared. Then a cancer diagnosis, which I had to face without insurance coverage.  There went my retirement funds over the course of a tough, lonely year.  But, we got through it.

 

In January 2010, I was assigned to cover the immediate aftermath of the Haitian earthquake. I ended up returning after the assignment to work with several NGOs and spent a total of 8 months in country. Relief work can be addictive, as that assignment turned into what has become a 12 year odyssey with AERObridge, a 501(c)(3) NGO that utilizes donated corporate, personal and airline aircraft in the immediate aftermath of disasters. We've worked on Katrina, Rita, Sandy, Fukushima, Irma, Harvey, Maria, and most recently, Ida.  Over the course of those 12 years we have delivered over 4 million pounds of relief materials, more than ten thousand first responders within the first weeks of those disasters, and I have worked on both logistical and photo/video work on each of those.  The only fly in the ointment is that relief work is pro bono; in other words unpaid.  During Harvey/Irma/Maria I was on the road from 29 August to the day before Thanksgiving. Good for the soul, not so good for the wallet, but I wouldn't change a thing.

 

Two heart attacks later I changed my diet and dropped nearly 40 pounds, lowered my cholesterol and got my diabetes tightly under control. Because I am now a part time caregiver for my Deborah, and a part time worker at Triple X seats, designing fabric patterns, doing IT work and delivering said seats, major travel is out of the question so I've begun work on retrospective exhibitions, print sales, and also teaching. The gofundme funds will be used for a number of things; a large format printer, paper, ink, frames and also to replace a relatively large tax liability thanks to the somewhat opaque tax laws promulgated during 2020, the year the IRS found an underpayment of my self employment taxes. If gofundme is not  your cup of tea, we also use Venmo ( @Alan_Staats_Photography ), Paypal (602-790-2636) and Zelle (602-790-2636). Anything donated will be appreciated.  Thanks for reading!

 

 

Chauvin Is Guilty

 

20 April 2021 Part 2

 

Today, Derek Chauvin was found guilty on Murder 2, Murder 3 and Manslaughter, and was immediately remanded to jail.  Whatever the state sentences him to, the REAL punishment will most likely come at the hands of his fellow prisoners, unless he is kept segregated.  My opinion?  Keep him in the general prison population and let the real people hand down a sentence on top of the years he will get.  He deserves a long, slow and painful death.  THAT would be justice.

 

Eye and COVID

 

20 April 2021

 

Ok, so I got my vitrectomy and it wasn't too bad... from speaking with others who have had it done, I kind of expected to be awake during the surgery but Dr. Prasad had an emergency surgery to perform and my surgery was delayed at least 45 minutes. So the nurses put me on a gurney and told me to relax.  I am good at relaxing.  I fell asleep and when I woke up the surgery was finished.  I felt cheated.  I wanted to see what having my eye vacuumed out looked like. Oh well.  The floaters are gone and the colors rendered by that eye are much brighter.

 

On 18 April I got my second dose of the Moderna vaccine; this experience was much better than the first shot. The first shot hurt like hell.  For some reason the volunteer who did the shot did it so high up on my shoulder that it felt like it went straight into the bone.  Within an hour I could not move my arm without excruciating pain, which lasted four days.  When I got the second dose I explained what had happened after the first dose and could she please blast me further down my deltoid.  She did, and other than feeling like I got a noogie it was, and has been, pain free.  So no Corona cooties here, except of course the very occasional one that comes in a clear bottle with a lime jammed in the neck.

 

Eye

 

30 March 2021

 

So, tomorrow morning at 830 I am going to be sedated; while I am under my head will be immobilized, my right eye paralyzed, pain free courtesy of injections that I really don't want to think about. I am about to have a vitrectomy. It involves a very sharp small knife and a miniature vacuum cleaner that will proceed to empty said eyeball, thereby ridding it of the floaters I've had for years. Here endeth the lesson. Now for the human side, it's my right eye, so it's not my "working" eye, my shooting eye, basically not my dominant eye... but I do like depth perception.

 

Votes

 

29 March 2021

 

So, I'm trying to understand the current batch of Republicans.  This week's question:  Why, instead of trying to keep people who probably won't vote for you from voting, don't you try to get them to vote for you?  Even pretending to care might make a difference.

 

I'M BACK!

 

27 March 2021

 

Well, I finally managed to work my way through the ridiculous covid vaccine system that somehow got put in place in Arizona.  What a goat rope, to say the least.  And now, of course, that there are actual vaccinations to be had, trump's mighty band of idiots are taking credit for it.  Right.  A year of "it's a Democratic hoax", and basing critical policy on the rantings of various sychophants, including the "pillow guy" and suddenly he's been on the case all along.  Right.  The only things trump has regularly been on are the golf course and his squatty potty. But the really true believers buy the hoax and vaccine denials nonsense, hook line and sinker.

 

Unfortunately for them, not getting a vaccine that they deny is working on a hoax is going to be an exercise in Darwinism.

 

Good news for rational politics, bad news for the deniers, some of whom will deny themselves right into an ICU where some of THEM will drown in their own snot.

 

"Justice" Kavanaugh

 

8 October 2018

 

...I don't KNOW that Kavanaugh tried to rape a 15 year old way back when.  I have my suspicions, borne of living, for a while, in a place full of entitled trust fund babies who I DO know pushed that particular envelope and got away with it. But my suspicions about something that happened that long ago, no matter how they are judged in the court of opinion, aren't enough for a court of law. Which brings me to what REALLY should have disqualified Kavanaugh.

 

I understand that the hearings were stressful for him; what better test could he have been subjected to? And, make no mistake, he failed that test.  He proved, beyond the proverbial shadow of a doubt, that he has a temper he cannot control, a political bias that he does not want to control, a boundless contempt for those who have the nerve to question his integrity, and not a shadow of compassion for the victims of sexual assault.

 

America COULD have seen all these things. But we were a collective dog in a yard full of squirrels. Every time we should have been looking at what were the facts, not the insinuations and accusations, no matter how valid we judged them to be, we collectively shouted "SQUIRREL!!!" and looked the other way.  Too Bad.  It was our moment, and we blew it.

 

What Money Is To Some People

 

5 March 2018

 

This morning I read a beautiful article in the New York Times about a homeless woman who passed away on "her" subway grate in New York City, and for some reason, my mind wandered back 20 years or so to a time in Los Angeles and a good friend who was on the verge of homelessness and called out for help.

 

We both graduated from the same high school, Woodlands, in Hartsdale, New York and we had very similar backgrounds, which included a love of aviation. While mine was photographic, his was a love of aeronautical engineering, and after an eight month search he had finally found what he called his "dream job" helping to design components marketed by a supplier to large scale manufacturers.  The only "fly in his ointment" was that the eight month job search had literally drained his savings and he was roughly $300 short (after my loan of $500) on his overdue rent.  The housing market being what it was, his landlord was ready, and willing, to evict him and his sons in less than a week if he couldn't come up with the entire rent payment.  There was nothing left for him to sell and come up with the $300 - no car, or computer, or TV worth anywhere near the $300, and I was similarly tapped after the $500 loan, as well.

 

Over coffee we mined our memories of who was successful and might be able to help and, and in that pre-Google world we "411'd" and called many of our old friends, only to find that we were not alone in our poverty.  Way down that list was a person we both knew, someone I'll call "M."

 

M was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth.  His father owned a very successful children's clothing business and a beautiful home, belonged to an exclusive country club and rewarded each of his two sons' accomplishments, however mundane, lavishly.

 

After high school M went on to college and then to medical school; after internship and residency his final choice of practice was anesthesiology.

 

 A big, if not huge, mistake.

 

M eventually  became an addict, was fired from three hospitals and lost his license to practice by 1983, having spent his free time driving around New England filling prescriptions for Demerol with which he injected himself. The final initial straw (there was more to come) was when he passed out in the OR during an operation. Somehow, he got his license back and rebuilt a practice on Long Island as, you guessed it, an anesthesiologist.  By 1996, he was in trouble again, and lost his license again, only to have it reinstated. In 2015, he was sentenced to 15 months in prison for essentially dealing the deadliest opioids - Oxycontin and Fentanyl - to addicts, including women who paid "in trade."

 

Stepping back to that phone call, we contacted M to see if he could help. He refused, saying that he had just paid $75,000 for a custom Corvette. My friend lost his apartment the next week and,because he had nowhere to live, lost his sons and his new job. So while I understand completely the hesitation to help someone in need, I will never understand rubbing the salt of a shiny new car into someone's wounds. Despite the spoon, the trust funds, the lucrative career the one thing M never had and couldn't buy was compassion. Whether that was the reason for his lifestyle I will never know, nor do I care to. I know that the lack of compassion and human kindness made dealing death an acceptable trade off for a bit of fellatio, and the need to aggrandize himself by bragging about his new Corvette while refusing an inconsequential monetary helping hand probably made him feel like the big man he wasn't.

 

My aeronautical friend?  He got through the hard times, found a place to live - paid for initially with a job at a Los Angeles McDonalds - got his kids back, raised them right, and recently retired from Boeing. M, if recent photographs are any indication, is just a pathetic old man who borrows wheelchairs and canes in a play for sympathy at his court appearances. And, while the woman in the New York Times story has passed away, she did so with a host of strangers who did everything they could to help her, despite the demons in her that kept that help at bay. Money, its acquisition and stewardship apparently never entered into the thoughts of those who helped.

 

21 February 2018

 

Assault Weapons

 

OK, it's time for a little logic about assault weapons. First off, the only reason I keep hearing from the gun lobby and "hobbyists" is that owning one is their Second Amendment right. All right, let's think about our Constitutionally guaranteed rights. For example, it is every American's right to express themselves under the First Amendment. However, in examining case law, the Supreme Court "ruled unanimously that the First Amendment, though it protects freedom of expression, does not protect dangerous speech."

 

In other words, yelling "fire" in a crowded theater when no such conflagration exists can lead to criminal prosecution. That said, our most sacred right (in my opinion, of course) is not blanket permission to put others in danger simply because you have the right to speak freely and say something galactically stupid.

 

As for the Second Amendment, "The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms and was adopted on December 15, 1791, as part of the first ten amendments contained in the Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the right belongs to individuals, while also ruling that the right is not unlimited and does not prohibit all regulation of either firearms or similar devices. State and local governments are limited to the same extent as the federal government from infringing this right, per the incorporation of the Bill of Rights."

 

The critical sentence within the ruling is "that the right is not unlimited and does not prohibit all regulation of either firearms or similar devices." So, while it is a right to "keep and bear arms" that right may, and should in the case of assault weapons, be regulated to the point where such weapons are banned for use by the general public.

 

Why should they be banned? Assault weapons (and think about that label for a second: Assault Weapons) are not hunting rifles, and, in my opinion again, are an asinine choice for home protection, mostly because in the confines of a house if you miss (and don't rip someone's gizzards out) that round is going to go through a wall or two. If your kid, or dog, or grandma is behind one of those walls, you have a victim you probably didn't want to send to the hospital thanks to your assault weapon.

 

Next, despite everyone who favors assault weapons mentioning that they are "semi-automatic" don't let that little bit of English fool you. I've shot an AR-15... (Yes, us Libtard Snowflakes have friends who owned - note the tense there - AR-15s.) And yes, an AR-15 is a semi automatic weapon, which means that with each trigger pull, it goes "bang", a round comes out of the barrel and most of the recoil energy is used to extract the fired shell, insert another shell, and cock the weapon for the next shot. In plain English, instead of having the weapon keep killing simply by holding down the trigger, you have to physically do it yourself. Again, drawing on my own experience with an AR-15, you can empty a ten round clip in less than ten seconds; you just have to keep twitching your trigger finger. If you have a 30 round clip, or worst case, two 30 round clips taped together so that all you have to do is eject the first clip, flip it over and insert the other one, the math is easy to do. Adding five seconds for a practiced shooter to flip and insert the second clip, you've got 60 rounds out in a little over a minute.

 

Think about it. 60 rounds in a little over a minute. That's not a description of hunting. That's a description of chaos.

 

So yes, the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear arms...

 

Last: A large contingent of Republican politicians are suggesting that arming teachers and staff is a good idea. Nothing could be farther from the truth. And installing armed guards at the door is another one. Why? Think about it: Someone has decided they're going to shoot up a school, so they do a little recon and see where the guards are. So when the time comes to commit their filthy acts, they've already chosen the first victim: The Guard. To those who say "but he's/she's armed, too," think about this: All the shooter has to do is raise, aim and fire his AR-15. Most law enforcement holsters have a snap on them to keep their weapons secure, so, when the time comes they have that little bit of extra time spent on unsecuring the weapon, drawing it, aiming and firing. By which time they're most likely already hit, and the shooter's in.

 

Sorry, AR-15 owners. You haven't given me a single argument for why these assault weapons should be available to anyone who wants them beyond a 230+ year old Amendment to the Constitution written and promulgated when a rifle took nearly a minute to fire and reload. The right to own one is there, true, but the need is not.

 

Finally, mental health restrictions. Yes, they need to be in place for ALL owners of weapons, not just assault weapons. The current administration took away those restrictions; remember that when you VOTE in November.

 

14 August 2017

 

Those who don't recall history doom us all to repeat it.

 

A couple nights ago, the garbage in the photo to the left, along with thousands of his fellow trash, decided to invade a relatively peaceful city in West Virginia. Spurred on by the twitter feed of our idiot in chief, they came supposedly to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.  If you believe that is the reason for their gathering, I have a bridge you might be interested in purchasing. The real reason as I see it was to "save" white america.  From what I have no idea.  Racial "impurity" perhaps?

 

 When the nazis came to power in the 1930s they did so by convincing people that the root of their problems lay in everyone except them.  In the years to follow, the nazis literally tore much of the free world to pieces, along with millions upon millions of innocents. The fathers and mothers of american baby boomers laid down many of their lives in a protracted war that changed the face of the entire planet.

 

Now, 70 years on, the ideology that nearly destroyed the earth is back in the form of losers who, for one reason or another, find it necessary to blame the "sad state of the country" on everyone but themselves.

 

Here's an example.  I have a friend whom I've known since I was a small child. She is of Polish descent, a third generation american whose father was a ball turret gunner in the 8th Air Force. She wrote a screed on one of the social media sites lambasting everyone BUT the neo-nazi garbage that started the fight in Charlottesville.  There is a part of me that wants to take her to task publicly and remind her that, 78 years to the day, the nazi army was marshalling on the western border of her ancestral home and in less than a month would invade and decimate the entire country, including members of her extended family not quite lucky enough to immigrate to the United States.  I am saddened beyond words that the world we will leave our children will probably have to fight the battles of the 1940s all over again; this time at home.

 

3 July 2017

 

 How I got started in photography.

 

I've been asked many times how I became interested in photography, and how it lead to a lifelong love and career.  The answer goes way back to when I was eight years old.

 

On a late August day in 1959 I was standing on the porch of our little house in Elmsford, NY. It was a truly idyllic place, with a couple acres of lawn to cut and care for and a little stream running through it.  I looked out to where my mother, father and a few neighbors were standing near the bridge over the stream and wondered why, when everyone else was standing there in shorts and summer shirts, my mother was wearing a winter coat. She also seemed very upset about something, too.  That something turned out to be a diagnosis of advanced breast cancer which, it also turned out, was why she was always cold.  Hence the winter coat.

 

At dinner that night, my older brother Bill and I learned of the diagnosis; I imagine it meant more to Bill than it did to me as I was as clueless as a rock as to what the word "cancer" really meant. I did know that it upset everyone, especially my father who, for the first of two times in our lives together, sat at the table crying.

 

Fast forward to a month or so later, and my mother was admitted to Phelps Memorial Hospital in Sleepy Hollow, New York, where she was scheduled for a radical mastectomy. Back then, lumpectomies and other modern treatments were little more than a researcher's dream, and a radical mastectomy was a vicious cut-to-the-bone exercise in last ditch efforts.  I later learned that Dr. Donovan, and his team, removed breast tissue, muscle and  lymph nodes down to the bones of her chest and right arm. When all was said and done, and the biopsies came back, though, the prognosis was very poor. I learned this the hard way

 

My mother was in a private room at Phelps, and the bathroom was filled with the bandages and tapes the nurses needed to change regularly. Because of this, I was told that when nature called I needed to use to bathroom down the hall. So, when nature called, I walked out to use the bathroom. As I was walking back to my mother's room I heard my father's voice. It sounded strange, like he was crying as he was trying to talk.  So I stayed outside the solarium door and snooped. Probably shouldn't have, in hindsight. The bottom line is that Dr. Donovan was very sorry, but the prognosis was " six months, and then she'll pass fairly quickly after that."  That was the second time I heard my father cry.  I went back to my Mother's room and said nothing.  For 26 years.

 

That night, my Dad and Uncle Bob shared a scotch or three when we got back from the hospital. Eavedropping again, because I was having trouble sleeping, I listened as Uncle Bob told my Dad that "six months? The little one won't even remember what she looks like."

 

When my mother came home from the hospital, I started taking pictures of her.  First in color, and then in black and white.  Hundreds of them.  I became Phillips Photo's (on Old Tarrytown Road) best customer for a few years.  A few years, because, despite the original prognosis, my Mom lived another seven years, passing away in March, 1967.  She even continued to work, as the cashier at Old Tarrytown Road Elementary School cafeteria for a few years after her operation.

 

When I was ten, I found out that photographers actually got paid for their pictures; I got a shot, with my Kodak Instamatic, of Uncle Bob accepting a trophy after he won a golf tournament.  He sent it in to a friend at the New York Daily News and I ended up being paid ten dollars for it. Ten dollars to a ten year old in 1961 was a fortune! I used it on my first trip to Aunt Ethel and Uncle Bill's house in Panama later that summer.

 

Serendipity and the kindness of photographic masters over the years have lead me here. i still love to shoot, and computers and software have replaced the Microdol, Dektol, hypo, stop bath, enlargers, and steel tanks of my youth. But it is still a magical art to me, and always will be.

 

Two things: First, those 26 years of silence ended in 1985 when, during an argument with my Dad, I recited the conversation he had with Dr. Donovan in 1959. It broke his heart. I am eternally sad that I didn't have the discipline to keep that to myself. Second, all but three of the thousands of photographs I made of my mother were destroyed in an apartment fire in March, 1997 thirty years, nearly to the day, from her passing.

 

November 2016

 

America has gone and done it and elected Trump to the presidency. I cannot believe that so many were taken in by this bombastic, cheeto-colored cheat. It's just beyond belief.  I'd like to personally congratulate all of his supporters on being taken in by the biggest con in the history of the world. He claimed he was going to "drain the swamp" and sweep out all the old guard and bring a new Washington to life, and then proceeds to nominate, you guessed it, much of the old guard to positions of power. He's also hell bent on ignoring the laws regarding nepotism while merrily bringing in his family members into positions of power.  On top of all that, he is planning on reducing taxes, not for the people who need a tax break but for people like him: The ultra rich. So much for the common man and woman.  We are so screwed.  And when the feces hits the fan, all you mouth breathers that voted for him will blame the media.  Guess what?  The media wasn't in the voting booth with you.  You did it to yourselves.  So congratulations, idiots.

 

 3 March 2016

 

Well, a good bit of time has passed since my last entry, and much has happened... but the main thing, the unbelievable thing, is that Donald Trump is the front runner in the Republican party's bid to elect a president.

 

I can only ask myself "is America truly THAT stupid to seriously consider Donald Trump as a viable candidate?"  The answer seems to be a resounding yes, and not just among the mouth-breathing jingoist/racist/supremacist crowd, either.  Otherwise "normal" Americans are falling for his b.s. in droves, apparently, with absolutely no eye on either the future OR Trump's past.

 

The bottom line with Trump is that the only thing he is truly good at is self-aggrandizement.  He believes in nothing beyond himself and is a panderer of galactic proportions.  He has failed, time and again, at his business ventures, which doesn't seem to bother anyone as he blames each failure on "the government" while, in reality, each failure was the result of simple bad management and overspending. The real issue is that each of his failures haven't cost him a dime; his failures came on the backs of thousands of employees and sub-contractors who walked away from each of his failures with nothing or, in the case of the latter, ten percent of what they earned, if they were lucky.

 

I know this because I know ex-Trump employees and sub-contractors, and not in the way Trump "knows" people... I know them as true friends and former neighbors, people who lost jobs, retirement accounts, homes and futures while Trump thrived.

 

So now we Americans are looking at a world that needs cool, reliable and knowledgeable leadership, none of which apply to the bloviating Mr. Trump.  If by some enormous political misfortune his (and the Koch Brothers') billions buy him a four year lease on Pennsylvania Avenue we will see the end of the world as we know it. America will be lucky to simply "be" much less be great again.

 

 30 August 2015

 

Katrina

 

Ten years ago, I was sent to New Orleans on assignment and embedded with Customs and Border Protection air assets in Hammond, a suburb to the north of town. I'd been to New Orleans a couple dozen times before and it was (and remains) one of my favorite cities for a host of reasons... the cuisine, the music, the people, the architecture among them. It was heartbreaking to see what had happened, and more heartbreaking when one realized that one of the main reasons for all the suffering could be attributed to so many stupid reasons, beyond the delayed reaction of authorities to the disaster.  I'm told, for example, that the Army Corps of Engineers (ACoE) spent nearly $250 million on a study to determine the feasibility of building an island in Lake Pontchartrain upon which one of the tribes would build a casino. The year before, the ACoE spent one-fifth of that amount on another study that determined, not surprisingly, that a Category 2 hurricane would overwhelm the levee/pump system.  At least someone knew what was coming.

 

 Mayor Ray "Chocolate City" Nagin (his own nickname for the city, lest you think I am waxing racist) made a number of unbelievably stupid decisions as well.  The worst, in my opinion, was to forbid the school system to use the thousands of school buses as evacuation vehicles. Instead to taking forty or fifty thousand people out of town, they ended up sitting, unused, in ten feet of fetid lake water while the almost exact number they could have gotten out of town roasted in the Super Down or sat in the tropical sun in front of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.  On that note (the convention center) while thousands baked, hungered, thirsted and, in some cases, died in front ot the Morial center, a couple dozen terrified Louisiana national guard troops stood watch over tens of thousands of MREs and untold gallons of water on the Morial loading docks.  Neither made it to the crowds in front -  the guardsman were afraid of the riot that would have ensued... or so I am told.  Who knows what the real story is or was.

 

One of the more pointed facts about Katrina is that the destruction was not limited to New Orleans... they just got the lions share of the press coverage, probably because so much of what happened, particularly in downtown and the Lower Ninth, could have and should have been prevented. But out in Placquemine Parish and points east, the sheer brutality of Katrina's power was beyond humbling.

 

The shot to the left was a neighborhood of town homes.  The pool has a car in it, and there are a few intact roofs, but the homes themselves are piles of lumber... not the piles of lumber that you see here, those are from the waterfront homes.  What's left of THESE homes are in piles a mile or so further inland.

 

 This was where the storm actually came ashore, unhindered, and at full Category 3 strength.  As bad as the situation was in New Orleans proper, if the storm had veered a little to the west, just 20 miles or so, and hit with this kind of ferocity, there's little doubt that the casualty figures would have been in the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands a New Orleans would have looked like the photo at the left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These were pilings for the L and N Railroad bridge across Bay St. Louis. The pilings for the I-90 bridge across the bay, seen below, fared no better. This was the area where the 150 MPH storm literally blew perpendicular to the coastline, evidenced by the fact that the elevated signs for Circle Ks and Waffle Houses, erected parallel to the wind, were left intact while the only recognizable thing where the Waffle Houses stood were their ubiquitous red stools, bolted to the slabs,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Route 90 at Bay St. Louis. The road, all six lanes, was just gone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then there are the photos you have to think about... this one shows a 40-odd foot shrimp boat in the middle of a pine forest... Two things:  The L and N Railroad tracks (you can see the grading at the bottom of the photo) on the west side of Bay St. Louis are about a mile from the water.  And the boat came straight down into the forest, which is why you don't see broken trees right next to it.  Think about the power it took to do that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, there's the I-90 Condo... if you look closely at the top left of the photo, you can see the twin of this building - which just floated, more or less intact, into the middle of the road during the storm.  I love all the Caterpillar D9s and earth movers surrounding it as if they're trying to figure out what to do with it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten years on, the Lower Ninth is still reeling.  Nagin is a chump who is now a federal prisoner thanks to serial dishonesty. He was the kind of self-serving bastard that set New Orleans up for what happened... pretending to care while lining his pockets.

 

30 June 2015

 

 Film Versus Digital

 

 No, this is not going to be some dry comparison of the pros and cons.  It's more of a reflection, if you will, of times past.

 

I miss film, to be honest.  Actually, I do and I don't. I love the speed and creativity that digital gives me; things that I used to try to do with film, with hours if not days in between the attempts, I can do in camera now... or minutes later in photoshop. I can shoot an aircraft on a ramp in Scottsdale, and literally seconds later my client in Wisconsin can see what I've shot. Amazing. Or I can shoot a portrait session and show the subject and the stylists what is good and what needs to change, and get the subjects opinion and (hopefully) approval before I even strike the lights and pack everything up. Again, amazing.

 

 No, what I miss most about film is film, the actual tactile piece of chemically coated plastic.  I can look at a slide or a negative and know that it was with me, wherever I was... This one went to Africa with me, this one went to Europe with me, this one was in the delivery room when my son was born.   That's what I miss most about film. Sure, I can look at a CF card or an SD card and know that it came along for the ride, but with film the actual light of Africa, or Europe or the delivery room actually fell upon it and in the end created the images I've made.

 

 26 June 2015

 

 Welcome to the first day of my first blog. I have no idea what it is I want to do with this, yet, but I'll figure it out.

 

Today is actually a landmark day in America... the Supreme Court has decided that gays and lesbians are deserving of equal treatment under the law. This is, in my opinion, a good thing, if only because now the government can concentrate on the rest of the problems this country faces... like racism, equal pay for equal work... you know, the basic stuff.

 

One day, we may all be considered equal, and equally deserving. I hope that day comes in my time.

 

Enough politics. My new site is up and running, and nowhere near as crowded and confusing as it was. It's built on a combination of Adobe Muse and Adobe Dreamweaver; at some point Adobe will listen to the Muse community and add the functionality we are all clamboring for. In the meantime, I'll just keep coding in both and hope for the best.

 

Welcome to the site!