Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Breaking Bad Finale Menu (Recipe: How I Do Buffalo Wings)

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Good Evening:

Tonight, Breaking Bad will become the only TV show in my entire life of which I’ve seen every single episode. For various reasons, I missed most of the final seasons of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Star Trek: The Next Generation, The X-Files, Ugly Betty, plus I didn’t have cable during the first five or six seasons of Mythbusters. Only Breaking Bad. So I’ve put together a special menu for the final show based upon events from the series.

  • Buffalo Wings, and Fried Chicken. My tribute to Los Pollos Hermanos.
  • Homemade Pepperoni Pizza. In one episode from Season 3, Walter White throws an extra-large cheese pizza onto the roof of his garage. It becomes a freakishly hilarious visual joke.
  • Green Beans. The first time Jesse Pinkman visits Casa White, he stays for dinner and compliments Skyler on her green beans. Which turn out to be store-bought.

Don’t know what to drink with the meal, yet; the cast seems to drink anything companies that have paid product placement fees put in front of them.

Here, incidentally, is how I do Buffalo Wings. Traditionally, the sauce for Buffalo Wings is the simplest in the book: two parts butter to one part hot sauce. That’s it. However, I like extremely powerful flavors and heat, so I take it to another level.

INGREDIENTS

  • 12 pieces of chicken wings
  • 8 Tablespoons butter
  • 4 Tablespoons Sriracha hot sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon finely minced or crushed fresh garlic
  • 1-3 Teaspoons ground Chipotle powder, to taste
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • (Opt.) 1-2 Tablespoon honey to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Line a cookie pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
  3. Spread the wings in a single layer over the paper or foil.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes, flip over the wings, bake for another 20-15 minutes (35 minutes total).
  5. As the wings bake, melt the butter and hot sauce together in the top of a double boiler. Important: whisk butter and Sriracha together as the butter melts.
  6. As soon as the butter has completely melted, whisk in all of the remaining ingredients at the same time and immediately remove from heat.
  7. Dump half of the sauce into a mixing bowl. When the wings are done, add them to the bowl and gently stir until even coated. If you need more sauce, add it; if you don’t, save the rest for and use it as a dip. You can also top a bowl of pozole with it; let your imagination run wild.
  8. Arrange the wings on a serving plate and start a feeding frenzy amongst your friends.

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–My almost certainly wrong predictions for the finale: the bad guys will kill Todd, not Jesse, because Todd killed a boy during the train heist; because the bad guys think gas masks are for sissies, Walt will be able to use his ricin to create a gas to poison all of them in the meth lab and save Jesse; Jesse kills Walter and becomes the new Heisenberg and hooks up with Lydia, the only other surviving supervillain (and the most persnickety).

Because It’s After 3:00 a.m.? Because It’s Me? Because It’s Levi Stubbs?

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Good Morning, Incredibly Enough:

Just finished my second draft of a play for a fund-raising 24-hour theater festival. I received my assignment at 8:00 last night: the producer assigned two women actors (one African-American, one South Asian), one director, and the theme “Objects Appear Larger.” The playwrights have a maximum page limit of 12, but I want to shorten mine as much as possible. With three actors in a ten-minute play, each will have roughly 40 speeches, difficult but not impossible to learn in twelve hours. With two actors, the total can exceed 70, and that becomes a brutal challenge for them.

And yes, as of 3:25 a.m., I have already written two drafts, and plan to write one more.

Normally, I wait a week between drafts, but I don’t have that luxury, so I write this post to clear my mind.

Staying awake represents the biggest physical problem, but you probably guessed this already. I have an extra issue insofar as I volunteered to donate breakfast to the 30-35 individuals involved in the show, so I cannot afford to go to sleep until my director and cast have safely received the scripts. The secret consists of taking a nap for no more than 30 minutes  at around 9:00, vast quantities of tea, and irresistible dance music to keep my knees pumping and therefore me awake.

And irresistible dance music means Motown.

Currently listening to The Temptations, but at 3:00 a.m. this morning I was listening to The Four Tops’ cover of “If I Were a Carpenter.” Honestly, I can’t recall if I’ve heard their version before (which leaves me severely disappointed with myself), but somewhere during the second verse, it *finally* hit me, over four decades too late:

Levi Stubbs was one of the gosh-darned greatest pop-soul-R&B singers of the previous century.

It could be just my imagination (once again) running away with me–told ya I was listening to The Temps–but at this crazy hour of the morning, it feels as if I have never appreciated the lead singer of The Four Tops as much as I should have done. It’s not entirely my fault: for one thing, the rest of the Tops were also pretty darn good, and they sang amazing harmonies; for another, Stubbs himself never pursued a solo career, remaining a loyal member of a team that was more together than together, more married than married. The original quartet never broke up; they performed together for 44 years until Lawrence Payton died in 1997.

But Stubbs! What enunciation, power and emotion! What a pure voice! He could deliver a song with such force it feels like he’s grabbing my solar plexus and shaking it hard.

And I missed this until approximately 3:00 this morning.

OK. New cup of tea (or “cuppa tay,” to quote Eliza Doolittle from Pygmalion), brain feeling a little clearer, and The Temptations are singing “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me.” Back to work.

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–My play includes references to 19th Century scrimshaw, the London School of Economics, The University of Washington women’s softball team, and the difference between Madras and Chennai. I’ve completely given away the entire plot of the script, haven’t I?

The Chessplayers, 26 September 2013

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Good Afternoon:

I think he was teaching her, because he was up two minor pieces, a Rook and several pawns. Nonetheless, they looked interesting together.

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And yes, these are “30 Shots,” both cropped, straightened and edited in iPhoto to minimize problems with excessive shadows and bright spots. I have only a quick post for today. This weekend I will participate in a 24-hour playwriting festival. Friday night, the writers will receive their cast, their director, and a theme (that’s to prevent us playwrights from cheating and writing the play ahead of time, but we’re totally honest, we would never ever never ever do that). The producers will give us until 8:00 a.m. Saturday morning to write the entire script, and then the cast and director will have exactly 12 hours to stage the play, plot the action, and learn the lines.

It’s madness, of course, and therefore I love it. Have a good weekend.

Vonn Scott Bair

US 101 South (Weekly Photo Challenge: From Lines to Patterns)

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Good Evening:

On top, US 101 South must disappoint drivers. It undulates through and over San Francisco with some nice curves and provides good views of the city, but the traffic is so horrible at most hours of the day that cars can’t do much better than crawl. Can’t be much fun for drivers.

Things look a different from underneath.

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I never thought of the possibilities of the overpass until this week’s Challenge, and when I walked under the over last Saturday, suddenly the pictures started appearing.

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I’ll have to go back sometime and explore further. Aside from having too little time to work/play, I saw a few great potential shots that I couldn’t take because the traffic on 13th Street would have flattened me. Gosh darned inconsiderate cars.

Vonn Scott Bair

Recent Urban Landscapes (Weekly Photo Challenge: From Lines to Patterns)

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Good Morning:

My recent pictures seems to include a large number of acceptably good urban landscapes, so I present a collection that demonstrates this week’s Challenge. The first two consist of two versions of the same photo, one color, one black-and-white. I have not decided yet which is better or if they should appear together as a diptych:

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With over 800,000 inhabitants on less than 49 square miles, San Francisco ranks among America’s most densely populated cities, and yet you will observe almost zero humans in this collection. I like to portray the urban landscape of San Francisco as devoid of humans to give a sense of desolation and emptiness. I also like the challenge of photographing the city without letting anyone get in the shot. Speaking of which, most of these shots come from the South of Market (SOMA) district of the city during recent weekends, a light industrial area full of auto shops; SOMA tends to empty out on weekend days, then livens up at night when the clubs open.

Of course I have more construction equipment shots: the building boom keeps booming.

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About two doors down from SFPUC HQ stands an old building that presents nothing of interest from the street, yet from the floor on which I work, the roof of all things (yes, the roof) sometimes presents an intriguing look.

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And now a few that also belong to my “White & Blue” series.

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These next shots come from a chilly overcast day (in other words, San Francisco in the summer).

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I close with a miscellany. Thank you for reading/viewing.

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Vonn Scott Bair

San Francisco Snippets and a New Picture Puzzle! (Weekly Photo Challenge: From Lines to Patterns)

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Good Evening:

Those of you new to The San Francisco Scene–Seen! have likely not seen one of my puzzles. San Francisco might have more murals per square mile than than any other city in America (perhaps the world? who knows?). I like to take close up pictures of a section of a mural, for example, this:

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…and then show the entire mural and ask you to locate the section within the context of the mural as a whole. Here are some more closeups, along with snippets of conversations I’ve overheard during the past week. Such as this snippet:

(at a grocery store) Man: *Of course, what you really want is the free-range bacon, not like this packaged s***, but you’re on a budget, you gotta do what you gotta f****** do.”

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Friday morning: two men standing on the 71 Limited, discussing issues in their AA recovery group, including the problem that the sponsor of one of the men had fallen off the wagon. At one point in the conversation one of the men said, “I can’t take this anymore,” and pulled out his Android phone. He said “Wake up.” After the phone powered on, he said–to the phone, not his friend–“Today sucks.” He listened to his phone, then turned to the other man and said, “She says tomorrow will be a better day.”

“What the h*** does she know?”

“Yeah, right.” And they laughed.

A few more closeups:

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And now the mural as a whole.

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I don’t design my puzzles to pose significant difficulties, but I hope you enjoy this one anyway.

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–Rather unlike my latest “Someone Notices the Contrast of White on White” blog post, isn’t it?

Someone Notices the Contrast of White on White, 21 September 2013 (Weekly Photo Challenge: From Lines to Patterns)

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Good Morning:

One of my most favorite subjects is one of my least favorite colors. What interests me about white (OK, technically not a color), are the shadows created when the light comes from just the right angle, throwing into sharp contrast the lines, patterns, shapes and textures of the subject. Presenting now for your consideration, some recent examples.

Parking Lot, Wells Fargo Bank, Grove Street, San Francisco

Parking Lot, Wells Fargo Bank, Grove Street, San Francisco

Ocean Beach, San Francisco, CA, 1 September 2013

Ocean Beach, San Francisco, CA, 1 September 2013

Hayes Street Near Alamo Square, San Francisco

Hayes Street Near Alamo Square, San Francisco

White on White Series #333: SOMA District, San Francisco 24 August 2013

White on White Series #333: SOMA District, San Francisco 24 August 2013

White on White Series: Near Folsom Street, San Francisco, 16 August 2013

White on White Series: Near Folsom Street, San Francisco, 16 August 2013

Station 1, Eighth Street Near Mission, San Francisco, CA

Station 1, Eighth Street Near Mission, San Francisco, CA

White on White Series: Spiral, Near Folsom & 13th Streets, San Francisco CA

White on White Series: Spiral, Near Folsom & 13th Streets, San Francisco CA

White on White Series #441: ECU of Napkin, 20 September 2013

White on White Series #441: ECU of Napkin, 20 September 2013

White on White Series #400: Mission Street, San Francisco, CA

White on White Series #400: Mission Street, San Francisco, CA

Vonn Scott Bair

Mirror & Roll-Up Gate, South of Market District, San Francisco, 14 Sept 2013 (Weekly Photo Challenge: From Lines to Patterns)

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Good Evening: 

You might see as many 5-7 posts from me on this subject. Sorry. Camera: Nikon CoolPix S9100 digital point-and-shoot; Landscape Mode; converted to B&W and other edits made in iPhoto.

Mirror & Roll-Up Gate, South of Market District, San Francisco, 14 September 2013

Mirror & Roll-Up Gate, South of Market District, San Francisco, 14 September 2013

Vonn Scott Bair

The Grey Light of San Francisco: More Music for a Friday Afternoon (Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside)

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Good Evening:

Can you think of any logical reason why a balding, potbellied, late middle aged white boy who’s never visited Africa could have possible developed such an interest in the Kora? And what does this have to do with the interior design of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s headquarters and the typical all-morning-long fog of my city’s summers?

Rear of Fourth Floor Break Room, San Francisco PUC Headquarters

Rear of Fourth Floor Break Room, San Francisco PUC Headquarters

I’ve worked at developing/increasing my collection of Music for a Friday Afternoon. Specifically, the 15-minute afternoon break on Friday, when the pressures of the week start to dissipate gently like our fog, and thoughts turn to the weekend’s chores and pleasures. To preserve the battery like of my iPhone 4 (which I used for all of these pictures), I’ve chosen the limited free subscription to Rdio for my music explorations. Frankly, Rdio does not wildly thrill me and I will probably dump it for iRadio when iOS 7 emerges into the real world. But Rdio has had its uses.

"The Escher Staircase" (my nickname) at SFPUC HQ, 3rd Floor

“The Escher Staircase” (my nickname) at SFPUC HQ, 3rd Floor

I have found some excellent additions to the Friday Afternoon playlist, starting with the curious choice of Andres Segovia. Segovia himself hardly represents a curious choice; but I have grown fonder of the solo works from The American Decca Recordings Vol. 1, not so much the concertos and sonatas with orchestras from other albums. Something about just the man with just his guitar feels just so right on a Friday afternoon.

Corner of Break Room, 12th Floor, SFPUC HQ

Corner of Break Room, 12th Floor, SFPUC HQ

Meanwhile, the Kora, a West African instrument associated with Mali, Senegal and other nations. That instrument produces atmospheric sounds of calm and delicacy, and yet manages to feel a little mysterious at the same time. Today I discovered an older collaboration between Toumani Diabate and Ballake Sissoko entitled New Ancient Strings. You can stream the CD for free on Rdio and hear for yourself why I will purchase it this weekend.

Who was here and what did they discuss? Judging from the chairs, I would say one was a foot taller than the other, and they sat close to each other and practically whispered. I suspect the conversation was both quiet and intense.

Who was here and what did they discuss? Judging from the chairs, I would say one was a foot taller than the other, and they sat close to each other and practically whispered. I suspect the conversation was both quiet and intense.

This morning treated San Franciscans to a typical example of what I call “the grey light.” When the morning’s fog doesn’t let up until sometime past noon, the overcast turns into an translucent filter that softens and diffuses sunlight. In the film industry, we have sheets of translucent paper called “opals” that have the same effect on Fresnels and other lights. This grey light (incidentally, no one else in San Francisco uses this term) illuminated all of these shots today. The interior design palette features heavy use of light green, olive, grey, cornflower blue, mustard and burnt orange, colors that lend themselves to softly lit environments.

Silk Flowers, 3rd Floor, SFPUC HQ

Silk Flowers, 3rd Floor, SFPUC HQ

Perhaps that explains the tendency toward quieter music on my Friday afternoons.

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–“Satellite” by the Dave Matthews Band also found its way into my collection.

Vonn Vs. The Trombone! (Weekly Photo Challenge: An Unusual POV) (Weekly Writing Challenge: Backward)

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Good Evening:

…but as I disembarked, the 40ish woman with shoulder-length curly black hair said, “It would be nice if I could look like Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs when I needed it.”

Perhaps I should back up a bit and start over.

First, a caution: this is not just another post inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge, this is also my first post inspired by the Weekly Writing Challenge: Backward. My story might seem a little confused. For the sake of my fellow photographers, the photos represent “An Unusual POV” in that they represent examples of what I call The 30 Shot, with my camera held low to the ground. For the sake of my new fellow writers, both this story and many of my more recent pictures deal with the same theme, homelessness in San Francisco, an appalling problem even in, especially in, America’s boomingest boom town, and I will write more on this anon.

Incredibly, this is the misogynist belligerent drunk who harassed women on the 6-Parnassus, which inspired my blog post, "I Meet Clark Kent--Yes, That Clark Kent--on the 6-Parnassus."

Incredibly, this is the misogynist belligerent drunk who harassed women on the 6-Parnassus, whom I removed from the bus with the aid of a man who looked exactly like Clark Kent, which inspired my blog post, “I Meet Clark Kent–Yes, That Clark Kent–on the 6-Parnassus.” The drunk did not recognize me–too drunk.

To get back to the story.

For several weeks, the area of the Haight near the intersection with Divisadero had served as the home of The Trombone. The Trombone was a white male mentally ill homeless person who roamed the streets day and night, screaming at any women who happened to get too near. The Trombone had only two possessions: the clothes he wore, and an old tarnished slightly dented trombone. I cannot tell you if he ever knew how to play the instrument, all I know is that he would produce sounds roughly akin to the South African vuvuzela at high volume after midnight. Either that, or scream at the streetlights or whatever displeased him.

One fine evening, I approached the bus stop at Haight & “Diviz” to await a downtown bus so I could attend a theater event. I knew The Trombone lurked nearby–he was screaming as usual. I did not at first realize that he had a target.

She stood about average height, about 45 years old, with curly black hair extending down to her shoulders. She had dress for a semi-formal evening, perhaps a date, with black mid-calf dress, stockings, open-toed black shoes. The Trombone stood holding his trombone in his left hand with his face maybe a foot directly in front of hers, screaming at her. She hugged her purse (black patent leather, gold chain) tightly to her chest as her shoulders hunched up and her face pointed straight down.

[Optional reading: It would be nice if mentally ill homeless males did not abuse women, but they can’t seem to help themselves. And they don’t represent the worst threats women face. Starting in grade school and continuing at least through high school, American girls and women need coaching in how to deal with hostile, threatening and/or violent situations. This lack of self-defense training represents one of the worst failings of our educational system. End of my ranting windbag editorial.]

Late Afternoon Smoke Outside the main branch of the SF Public Library

Late Afternoon Smoke Outside the main branch of the SF Public Library

He kept screaming, she kept hunching, and the few witnesses stayed on the other side of the street, or at the other bus stops. All a safe and distance away

But fools rush in where angels fear to tread; therefore, I had a reputation to uphold.

The Trombone screamed at her, screamed at her, screamed at her–and stopped screaming. Dead silence. The woman with curly black hair cautiously raised her eyes to look at The Trombone. He didn’t even look at her. He looked at something standing just to her left, so she looked in that direction, too.

I said to her, “So nice to see you again!” with my biggest and bestest smile.

She said, “Yeah! Long time no see!”

We had never met before. I kept smiling.

“How did that big project turn out? I remember you saying it was like a huge crisis.”

She replied “Oh, we finally got that done, I’m so glad it’s over.”

We had never met before. This was all pure improv, and I have to say, she had a natural gift.

We continued talking about the non-existent project, with the non-existent success and non-existent huge profit, and therefore the non-existent threatened layoffs that therefore did not non-happen. Then I turned to The Trombone.

“Hello,” I said, with a big smile. He flinched and took one giant step back.

I wrote “a big smile,” not “my biggest and bestest smile.” As I have written before, in my encounter with an English soccer hooligan who threatened the passengers on another bus ride, I look a bit like Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. With practice, I can also sound like Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. Best of all, I can do a perfect impersonation of that smile of his when he first meets Claire Starling. That’s how I said hello to The Trombone.

Then I resumed talking with my non-friend, using my regular smile. She looked at me and looked at him; she had missed the change and did not know what I had done.

Bad Sneakers: Market Street, San Francisco, 7 September 2013

Bad Sneakers: Market Street, San Francisco, 7 September 2013

The Trombone hung around, hoping I would leave so he could resume screaming at the woman (brave fellow, that). So every once in a while, I would turn to him and say hello using my Dr. Hannibal smile. I never said anything to him except hello. Literally. He would flinch and step further away each time. She kept an eye on me and caught on to the change in my facial expression, but I didn’t scare her, too.

We boarded the bus and The Trombone stole a ride by sneaking in through the back door. He really, really, really wanted to scream at this woman. Se we kept talking and smiling about her successful non-project (as I wrote above, she had an amazing gift for improvisation) and I would look at The Trombone and smile at him like Hannibal the Cannibal. He finally bailed out of the bus at Van Ness and Market.

Homeless Couple Using Garbage Bag as Pillow in Front of Orpheum Theater

Homeless Couple Using Garbage Bag as Pillow in Front of Orpheum Theater

She immediately changed from smiling to very serious and said, “You HAVE to teach me what you just did.”

“All I did was smile and say hello.”

“But the WAY you smiled! It was so creepy! I am so glad you didn’t smile at me like that!”

“It has come in handy sometimes.”

“You looked just like that guy in that movie-”

“Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs.”

“YES! Him! Can you teach me how to look just like him?!”

I looked at her thick, dark, shoulder-length curly hair.

“You don’t look like Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs.”

“Can you teach me how to smile like him?!”

“Do you really want to look like Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs?”

She leaned back in her seat.

“Oh, crap, I don’t.”

We exchanged a few more pleasantries until I arrived at my destination. I wished her well, she thanked me, we shook hands, and I turned away. She sat back in her seat staring straight ahead…

…but as I disembarked, the 40ish woman with shoulder-length curly black hair said, “It would be nice if I could look like Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs when I needed it.”

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–The Trombone vanished after that night. He never reappeared in my neighborhood.

The 30 Shot (Weekly Photo Challenge: An Unusual POV)

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Good Evening:

What do you do when you want to take a photograph? Chances are that you lift your camera up to your eyes, zoom in or out depending upon the shot, maybe fiddle with a few other controls, and then snap the shot. For this post, I request that you consider a different take on taking pictures, creating a different POV using a different POV.

Wait, Did I Just Take a Picture? Haight Street in Front of McDonald's, 27 August 2006

Wait, Did I Just Take a Picture by Accident? Haight Street in Front of McDonald’s, 27 August 2006

For a long time, I’ve wanted a means of taking/performing/committing street photography inconspicuously, without anyone realizing that a photographer (gasp!) lurked in the vicinity. Took me a while to realize that I always had such a technique available. Occurred in the photograph above, occurred in the photograph below.

Cigarette Break at the End of a Rough Day, San Francisco, California

Cigarette Break at the End of a Rough Day, San Francisco, California

I sometimes snapp pictures by accident–an involuntary twitch of the right forefinger, and the shutter closes. In the past, I had reflexively, without thinking, deleted them from the camera and/or my computer. But a few months ago, I took in the Garry Winogrand exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art shortly before it closed for renovations.

Stunning experience. Winogrand often did on purpose what I had done by accident (and had always assumed was a blunder). What had always seemed a dumb but temporary waste of pixels had constituted a major part of the work of one of those great photographers I had never heard of because I know so dang little about photography. Then I remembered a scene from the Costa-Gravas movie Z in which a photojournalist interviews the widow of the assassinated politician, sneaking photographs of her with a camera that seems to dangle uselessly at his side. I figured out that one can take pictures without even looking at the subject!

I call it The 30 Shot–largely because I have no idea what term professionals use.

The technique requires a small point and shoot digital camera with a very large view finder window. I zoom out as much as possible and use the default Landscape setting, then just let the camera dangle at my side. The lens hangs roughly 30 inches above the ground, hence my name for the shot. But the technique proved very difficult for me to learn and led to a lot of hopeless but deletable mistakes. I took all of the following shots in the past few days using a Nikon CoolPix S9100. I have not edited any of them for reasons I’ll mention later.

The biggest mistake: simply missing the shot.

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Yes. I would call that a miss.

Another problem I encountered consisted of horribly tilted angles that even editing in iPhoto couldn’t cure. I finally solved this through practice. Find a long stretch of flat road (think that’s easy in San Francisco?), with a brick or cinder block wall, something with long straight lines running parallel to the ground. Practice walking while pointing the camera at those lines and keeping it both steady and untilted.

The goal is to develop what actors call muscle memory. Try to remember the stress on your wrist and fingers as you hold the camera level. Once you do that, you can take pictures without looking at your subjects knowing that the results will turn out level or more often, almost level but easily fixable. Something like this.

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Not a masterpiece of course, but with cropping, correcting the tilt, and adjusting the light and dark areas (actually, I’m thinking B&W), should be an acceptable picture.

If you walk past a sitting subject, take a batch of shots, one quick one after another. Some will slightly miss:

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One or two will prove usable.

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Correct tilt, bright and dark spots, get rid of that bleeping pigeon, and I’ll have another adequate shot. I took 6 pictures of this gentleman rooting through his bad and deleted 4. No regrets–and no regrets are a vital part of The 30 Shot because believe me, you will miss far too many great shots.

I’ve learned a couple of other interesting techniques: first, that you don’t want take a shot as your foot hits the ground because it produces blur (unless you want the blur for artistic effect); and you can twist the camera around so that you take pictures of subjects directly behind you without even knowing what you’re photographing. Such as this man:

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A good example of the virtues of zooming out as much as possible. When I edit copies of this picture, I can crop it many different ways to produce many different new pictures. Megapixels are meaningless most of the time; I have no idea why people obsess over them (the sensor and the lens are far more important). Cropping is the one time when I do want the megapixels; however, even here the “mere” 12 megapixels I have are more than good enough for editing purposes. An 8×10 or even a 9×13 will look good.

Potentially, my mistakes can prove a lot of fun, and that is a very good thing because I make a lot of mistakes, no, I make a LOT of mistakes. Precision of expression is good. Whenever I practice The 30 Shot, I end up deleting 60-80 per cent of the pictures because they are truly hopeless. Not a problem. My definition of A Real Photographer is someone who can take 100 pictures, upload them to a computer, study each one carefully, edit each one as best as possible–and then delete all 100. Obviously, I am not A Real Photographer.

But the mistakes will sometimes amuse me.

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This next one deserves some photographic love and affection and tender loving care. I wanted to photograph a young couple walking their hyperactive Shih Tzu, but three of the shots missed badly (and I deleted them), while the fourth yielded this:

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Look at how her posture almost exactly mimics the man reflected in the glass! Can you also see the reflection of a second man’s legs in the marble? Similar posture! This is a Garry Winogrand type of shot, very typical of his late period work where he would ignore the rules about including the entire person in the picture. I think he actually The 30 Shot or another technique akin to it. No, no, of course I’m not even close to his level of quality, but I think Winogrand took a lot of shots using a similar technique. Of course I’ll convert to B&W because I’ve never seen a Winogrand photograph in color, and I’ll crop the left and bottom edges a bit. If presentable, I will present the finished results in a later post.

I do think that all of these shots would have been even worse had I taken them at eye level. Something about keeping the lens 30 inches above the ground seems to produce better angles and therefore results, esp. when the objets d’art are sitting. I can’t explain why. Please don’t think I’m trying to teach you anything, because I have no idea what I’m doing. Really, I don’t want to teach; I want to share how I’m learning. This post represents me as a student, not a teacher.

The final shot–perhaps–has the most potential.

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Let us not kid ourselves; right now the photo is a complete mess. Total disaster. The shadows are too dark, the whites are too bright, and you can’t tell that’s her helmet she’s removing from her head. But the composition, and the story it tells of their relationship at that moment in time (more like that millisecond in time) means that I might have (accidentally, of course) captured Henri Cartier-Bresson’s beloved Decisive Moment.

And that is why I have edited none of these photos so far. I’ve concluded that my previous commitment to “editing in the camera,” while a good idea, should have never become an absolute rule. All of the professional photographers I know edit their pictures, believing that taking the picture is only the beginning, not the end. So I will take this messy collection of bad photographs and teach myself how to edit them.

Presenting the results later–assuming I have anything worth presenting.

Vonn Scott Bair

Chronicle of a Death & Resurrection Foretold (Weekly Photo Challenge: An Unusual POV)

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Good Evening:

I have already written of the Anti-Masterpiece of Van Ness Avenue Architecture: what makes the POV of this series of pictures not just unusual but unique is I took every picture from the 8th, 10th or 12th floors of the Public Utilities Commission HQ on Golden Gate Avenue. The result: a POV that most people can’t access. Of course, City Hall, a true masterpiece of civic architecture rather messes up each picture–aside from getting between the office building and my camera, it adds much too much beauty to the scene. Nonetheless, I present a bunch of pix of one of San Francisco’s ugliest buildings, in chronological order starting with the oldest.

All pictures taken with either an iPhone 4 or Nikon CoolPix S9100 through tinted glass windows, so the colors might look a tad odd.

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“Wait one moment. Is this building getting dismantled?!”

Indeed it is. Taken apart piece by piece. They have already gutted its innards, now come the “outards.”

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There you have it: the death of an obsolete and ugly office building, a chronicle foretold. Yet this tale is also a chronicle of a resurrection foretold. As you will see, the steel frame is not coming down.

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This is a story not of recycling, but of Recycling on Performance Enhancing Drugs. As I walked past the (de)construction site, I asked one of the laborers when the steel would come down. He told me that they will not dismantle the building’s frame, not one little bit.

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“Condos. Three-Fifty, start.”

The building will be recycled. To translate from the real-estate-ese, the skyscraper will become the massive home of condominiums with a starting price of $350,000 for tiny units perhaps one-half the size of my apartment. And the clear implication: potential home seekers have already made inquiries, perhaps even offers.

We reuse everything in San Francisco. I’m sure the HVAC they install will prove vastly more energy-efficient than the old disaster. Furthermore, the exterior will look much better, if only by default.

I do wonder about one question: will it open before the second half of 2015? The scuttlebutt around City Hall (“scuttlebutt:” one of the words I most enjoy saying, along with “serendipity,” “flummox,” and “jimsonweed”) lately goes something like this: the housing boom, and the intense demand for housing, will peak in 2014. The housing bust will begin in the second half of 2015. The more you think about it, the more that should amaze non-San Franciscans. San Francisco, which has an exclusively boom-and-bust economy, has had so many booms and so many busts that we can actually schedule our busts.

Not that we want busts. But we can schedule them.

Vonn Scott Bair

Recipe: Dr. Vonn’s Magic Dust (Spice Blend for Deep-Fried Dishes)

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Good Evening:

Maybe this will prove nothing more than a figment of my imagination, but I honestly believe that I have created a perfect spice blend for deep-fried dishes, and I mean all deep-fried foods; fried chicken, breaded and deep-fried Provolone sticks, french fries, breaded and deep-fried veggies, et cetera. Naturally, I will continue to tweak and experiment with different proportions, but I present the best I’ve devised so far.

Dr. Vonn’s Magic Dust

  • 2 Tablespoons powdered onion
  • 2 Tablespoons powdered or granulated garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt (I prefer low salt dishes, you can add more)
  • 2 Tablespoons thyme (powdered or “rubbed” if you can find it)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons Spanish pimenton (smoked paprika)
  • 2-3 Tablespoons smoked cinnamon

Place all ingredients into a clean, sterile, and dry jar with a screw top lid. Seal tightly and shake vigorously. Shake some onto french fries so you can get a good feel for the taste and whether or not you want to adjust proportions. Should keep for a few months at least.

The most critically important ingredient, and the most difficult to locate, is the smoked cinnamon. Amazon has exactly one source of the spice, while I get my supply from The Ingredient Finder, but it is super-duper-ultra worth the search. In terms of taste, it blends well with the smoked paprika, but the aroma! WOW. That smell truly excites me. This ingredient has not caught on in American cooking yet (which explains why it remains pretty darn expensive), but I can’t see that continuing much longer.

In future experiments, I will use powdered rosemary, rubbed sage, perhaps some combination of rosemary, sage, thyme and maybe oregano, for I am an ethical mad scientist–I only experiment upon myself.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Ocean in Black & White (Weekly Photo Challenge: Sea)

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Good Afternoon:

Just couldn’t resist the temptation to experiment with B&W conversions of my color photos (all edits performed in iPhoto). First, three from Seal Rocks on Saturday.

Seal Rocks, Sailboat, Tree at Land's End, San Francisco, CA 083113

Seal Rocks, Sailboat, Tree at Land’s End, San Francisco, CA 083113

Walker & Two PIllars, Land's End, San Francisco, CA 083113

Walker & Two PIllars, Land’s End, San Francisco, CA 083113

Wall at Land's End, San Francisco, CA 083113

Wall at Land’s End, San Francisco, CA 083113

The rest of the pictures come from Sunday’s excursion to Ocean Beach, but the first might surprise you.

Silhouettes at Ocean Beach, San Francisco, CA 090113

Silhouettes at Ocean Beach, San Francisco, CA 090113

You see, this one is full color, except you won’t find much color, will you? I have mentioned a certain peculiarity of the Magic Hour (or Golden Hour) in San Francisco, and this represents another example of how the light can wash out color and make everything seem black & white. One of the next pair is full color, the other is B&W.

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Can you tell which is which? The second is in full color.

More shots from Sunday.

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Time to get ready for work tomorrow. I hope you have a good week.

Vonn Scott Bair

Incoming Tide, Late Afternoon, Ocean Beach, San Francisco 01 Sept 2013

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Good Evening:

Since Land’s End isn’t the only beach in town, today’s selection comes from my late afternoon visit Ocean Beach at the end of the N-Judah line about a mile further south. The experiments began with an accidental discovery; namely, after all the years/decades that I’ve looked at beaches the realization finally hit that sand, of all things, can become highly reflective when wet. The original photo wasn’t good enough to keep, but some others came out tolerably well. I like the third one because the young woman seems to stand on the reflected sky.

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America celebrates Labor Day this weekend, but that does not mean that all of us free from labor. Sailors still want to reach a safe harbor, after all.

Two Swimmers, One Freighter, Ocean Beach, San Francisco, 1 September 2013

Two Swimmers, One Freighter, Ocean Beach, San Francisco, 1 September 2013

Three Freighters, One Fog Bank, Ocean Beach, San Francisco 1 Sept 2013

Three Freighters, One Fog Bank, Ocean Beach, San Francisco 1 Sept 2013

Even at the beach one might still find a San Francisco oddity.

Flower on the Shore, Ocean Beach, San Francisco 1 September 2013

Flower on the Shore, Ocean Beach, San Francisco 1 September 2013

And at the end of the day, the pelicans return home as they have done for millennia.

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And on that note, I believe the time has come for me to fly to my bed, too.

Vonn Scott Bair