Monthly Archives: October 2013

I Do Not Understand Reality, Special Urban Decay Edition! (30 Oct 2013)

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Good Evening:

What do you think of when you think of urban decay? Something like this?

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Think again, dear reader.

Think cosmetics. Women’s cosmetics.

During the course of my weekend chores, I blundered past sales booth at Macy’s devoted to a line of women’s makeup called Urban Decay (“Beauty with an Edge.”). The colors looked exactly the same as the colors of the makeup at the other booths, but hey, that’s just the guy writing–I’m sure that like any other clueless guy-type person, I could not detect the ob-vious, ever so ob-vious differences.

But I’m sure that Urban Decay (“Beauty with an Edge.”) fills a needs. I can easily that there are women out there who say, “If I can’t spread some decay on my face, then I won’t go out at all.” Or perhaps something like “I feel naked without some decay on my lips.”

Um, wait.

I can’t imagine any woman saying that. Let me try again. I can imagine a woman saying, “I don’t feel beautiful without Urban Decay on my face.”

No, actually, I can’t.

“Nothing brings out my inner beauty quite like decay.”

“My decay is beautiful.”

“Only decay can make my eyes look their best.”

Still can’t. But if I can’t understand why a brand name like Urban Decay is perfect for eye shadow, blush, or lipstick, then one must conclude that I Do Not Understand Reality.

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–The Boston Red Sox just won the 2013 World Series. Looks like I’ve jinxed The Curse again and let the team its third championship in ten years. Probably still won’t get a World Series ring.

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Grey Series: San Francisco’s West Coast During the Magic Hour, 27 October 2013 (Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon)

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Good Evening:

Who needs another gorgeous sunset? Fluffy pink gossamer clouds in a dark sapphire sky as a perfectly round sun turns orange red and lights up the sea with its reflections?

Feh.

After 30+ years on the Pacific Coast, I have learned how to appreciate the normal San Francisco sunset, when fog and/or clouds roll in along with just the right brisk breeze–OK, howling near-gale-force wind–to instill in oneself the proper level of appreciation for hot chocolate, spiked or unspiked. Since so many of these Challenges seem custom-designed to drive me to the ruins of the Sutro Baths, yesterday’s Magic Hour was perfect.

In a sort of dark grey, gloomy, ghosts and goblins sort of perfect.

Wester Horizon, San Francisco, California, 27 October 2013

Wester Horizon, San Francisco, California, 27 October 2013

For all of these shots, I pulled out my Nikon D40 DSLR, but I left the polarizing filter on, despite the gathering darkness. I still don’t know why, but something about the American West seems to require some kind of filter to prevent pictures from coming out too brightly. Although the filter technically changes the light, the resulting pictures displayed what I actually saw (1/30th second exposures). No filter would have made the shots too light.

Two of the shots don’t qualify for my Grey Series, but they still have some interest.

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That bottom picture looks like something from a computer game of the adventure genre (e.g., Myst) where you need to find a message engraved on the far side of the boulder. Just two more for tonight, but truly grey shots, even if shot in full color.

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Vonn Scott Bair

San Francisco’s Eastern Coast During the Magic Hour (Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon)

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Good Evening:

Sometimes, I just sit or stand in stark stunned shocked surprised stupid stupefied stupefaction at something San Franciscan. That’s what this city does to its denizens.

It makes them overuse the letter “s.”

I revisited Corona Heights to get a view of San Francisco’s eastern horizon during the Magic Hour today, which began shortly after 5:30 p.m. local time. I arrived just in time to witness another brilliant late afternoon autumn weekend view of the city’s eastern shore, the East Bay, and on the distant horizon, Mt. Diablo.

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Of course I took other pictures, starting with a pair of zoom shots of Mount Diablo.

Medium Zoom Shot of the Eastern Horizon from Corona Heights, 16 October 2013

Medium Zoom Shot of the Eastern Horizon from Corona Heights, 16 October 2013

Extreme Zoom Shot of Mount Diablo, Showing the Giants Ballpark in the Lower Left

Extreme Zoom Shot of Mount Diablo, Showing the Giants Ballpark in the Lower Left

I hadn’t noticed this crack in the boulder during my previous visit, another addition to my Grey Series.

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During the walk back home, I saw that Courtney’s Grocery had begun celebrating two holidays. Took a bit of experimenting, but eventually discovered that the Dusk setting worked best for the challenges posed by the combination of colored lights and gathering dusk.

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Vonn Scott Bair

Saturday Morning, 26 October 2013

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Good Morning:

The Page & Laguna Mini-Park does not come close to ranking amongst San Francisco’s smallest parks–we have “parklets” on Valencia no larger than a parking space–but it probably merits little or no mention in most tourist guides.

I rather feel sorry for the tourists.

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Some of San Francisco’s most San Franciscan points of interest don’t get much pointed interest except from the people who live on the same block as the point of interest. This time of year, Page & Laguna looks good enough before 8:00 a.m. to stop me from traveling downtown to take a few shots.

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San Francisco brings all kinds together. Not just humans, but plants:

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This fuchsia and this cactus literally grow adjacent to each other.

To me, the little gems of San Francisco constitute a better reason to visit than the better-known reasons. One of the most common reasons people give for visiting here consists of “shopping,” which has always struck me as odd; San Francisco has the only Apple Store in America? The only Macy’s? The only Nike? (and that’s just three blocks of Stockton Street, and I haven’t even mentioned Crate & Barrel, Forever XXI, and–oops, I just mentioned them).

I hope you have your own little gem of a weekend.

Vonn Scott Bair

Couples in San Francisco – A New Kind of Puzzle!

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Good Evening:

I’ve posted quite a few picture puzzles (such as this one, that one, and another one), but while going through my recent set of street photographs, I discovered a quartet with a repeating theme: pairs of humans. Indeed, speaking of pairs, I took one pair in front of City Hall and another in front of the Academy of Art on New Montgomery.

And yet, one of these four pictures differs from the other three in two ways So I present a new kind of puzzle: which picture is different from the other three in two ways, and what are those two ways?

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Take your time, have another look; which one is different and why?

Last chance…

OK, first of all, the trick picture is the bottom one; it’s the only one with one man and one woman, but that represents the only difference.

The correct picture is the second from the top. It differs from the others in two ways:

  1. The two men are significantly older than the others.
  2. They are the only two paying attention to each other, talking with each other, and not focused on their devices.

Hope you had fun with this one.

Vonn Scott Bair

How I Became the Curse of the Boston Red Sox–And How I Broke My Own Curse and Led the Team to Two World Series Championships

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Good Evening:

Gather around the virtual campfire, Faithful Readers, and listen as I regale you with a tale too bizarre to be true and yet too true to be false, too impossible to be possible and yet too impossible to be impossible, too impossible to be anything but the truth–the tale of how I became The Curse of the Boston Red Sox, and how I broke that curse and let them to two World Series victories.

The tale begins in 1978 during my college years. Perhaps perchance, or perhaps per the impish humor of the people who assigned students to dorm rooms, I lived on a peculiar floor with an odd number of students. I was literally the odd man out; exactly half of the other students hailed from the Boston Area. They were all Red Sox fans.

The other half hailed from New York City. They were all Yankees fans.

Oh, yeah. That fall semester got really hairy during baseball games during one of the all-time great pennant races. The Red Sox and the Yankees (possibly North America’s most ferocious professional sports rivalry) finished with identical 99-63 records, forcing a one-game playoff.  At the time, Boston fans believed that they suffered from “The Curse of the Bambino,” also called “The Curse of Babe Ruth.” They believed that because Harry Frazee had sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1918, the team had become cursed and would never win another World Series.

Now the Red Sox fans and the Yankee fans did not agree on much, but they did agree on one thing–I was absolutely, mind-boggling, totally, hopelessly and incurably insane to pass up on the game and instead visit the library to do my homework. All of my floormates united as one (for once) and they ripped me for not wanting to watch the game. To which I made this fateful reply:

“Why bother? I know how the game will end. The Red Sox will have either a 2-0 or 3-1 lead after six innings, choke, and lose 5-4.”

When I returned from my evening of study, my floormates said two very different things to me.

  • Yankees’ Fans: “Vonn! I’m taking YOU to the racetrack!!”
  • Red Sox Fans: “Vonn! I’m taking YOU to the racetrack!!”

Well, it sounded different.

And that’s how I replaced the Bambino as The Curse of the Red Sox. For roughly the next quarter-century, everything bad that happened to the Sox happened because of The Curse of the Bair. So you Bostonians can lay off Bill Buckner, please. Not his fault.

But then 2004 and the seventh game of the American League Championship Series came around. Boston had accomplished the impossible. They had forced a Game 7 after falling behind 3-0 in games. But would they choke again? Of course they would choke again. They were the Boston Red Sox. They suffered from The Curse of the Bair. They suffered from me.

But I suffered from guilt. By that time I had come to know a large number of Bostonians (all Red Sox fans, of course)–I had met them via the Internet. I had become their friend. I had come to know of their suffering, their pain, their tears, and through all this, despite all this, I had come to know of their courageous, inspiring, undying hope that some day maybe, just maybe, they would see their Red Sox win the World Series. And of course I had met the ultimate Red Sox fan, an elderly woman I’ll call DF who had never seen her team win the Series.

Do you really think that I could continue to live with this burden, knowing that DF, a grandmother, had never seen her Red Sox win it all?? That a few dozen Bostonians who called me their friend did not know that the Red Sox had not won the World Series because of me? Their friend?? The Curse had become more than a curse on the Sox–it had become an un-Bair-able (sorry) burden for me. Their Curse had become my Curse. I couldn’t take it anymore. So as the game began I logged into a BBS where I knew my Boston friends liked to hang out and confessed everything, all of my sins, and how I had become The Curse of the Red Sox. I begged forgiveness of my Boston friends and told them that I decided to confess to everything I had done to them since 1978 in the hope that I would jinx my own curse, destroy my own curse, and help propel the Red Sox to victory in Game 7 and then in the World Series. I logged off from the Internet, turned off the computer, and turned on the TV during the second inning.

Boston scored 4 runs that inning and won 10-3. My friends forgave me for everything.

And that’s how I became the true MVP of the 2004  ALCS. BTW, I’m still waiting for my ring.

Incidentally, before Game 7 I had predicted that if the Red Sox won, the St. Louis Cardinals also had to win their pennant, because if Boston was going to win the World Series, they should win it versus their historic nemeses from the National League. The Red Sox swept the Cardinals.

Believe it or not, there exists a sequel.

On the night of Game 1 of the 2007 World Series, I was eating a hamburger in a pub on 24th Street near Folsom, as I was going to a short film festival at the Roxie where I had acted in one of the movies. I espied a young gentleman in a Red Sox cap eating about six feet away. After giving him the traditional greeting all San Franciscans give people wearing Red Sox caps (“Hey! You must be a Yankees fan!”), we got to talking about the Series, and I told him the story of how I had once been The Curse of the Red Sox. He looked at me with this “Should I beat him up now or wait until he finishes the story?” expression on his face until I told him about how I had jinxed my own curse and helped Boston win that legendary Game 7. He said, “I hope you still have that curse jinxed.”

After the festival I felt quite surprised to see him in the auditorium. As it happens, he directed one of the other short films. He asked me if I knew the score of Game 1. I checked my “smart” phone (a Palm Treo 300).

“Boston won 13-1.”

“Come on, man, don’t mess with me.”

“See for yourself.”

“You just became my new good luck charm!!”

Boston won in four games.

I’m still waiting for that ring.

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–But what does this mean for 2013? Have I become a Force For Bostonian Good that will win every World Series in which Boston plays? Or have I just jinxed the jinx that broke The Curse, leaving the Red Sox doomed to be 86’d for another 86 years??

PPS–I’m a San Francisco Giants fan; why did I become so important to an American League team, why did I become a Force for Bostonian Good, and so critical to the Red Sox’ success?!

The Extremely Extreme Close Up (Weekly Photo Challenge: The Hue in You)

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Good Evening:

Good Gracious, what be this exotic alien creature?!

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You can relax–Earth is not being invaded by extraterrestrial blobs which are stoned on LSD, getting high on Mendocino Gold, and consider The Grateful Dead the final word on fashion. Let’s pull back the camera a bit:

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Just another close up picture of an orchid at the Conservatory of Flowers.

When I studied the results of my earlier visit to the Conservatory, it became obvious that the innermost parts of the orchids deserved their moment in the sun. I also wanted to test the limits of cropping and blowing up shots taken with a 12 megapixel camera. Just about the only I care about megapixels (perhaps the most overrated statistic in photography) is when I crop and blow up shots to produce extreme close ups and extremely extreme close ups. The project proved quite difficult, with perhaps two-thirds of the shots coming out much too blurry, but about a sixth are worth your time, I hope. Some are less extremely close up, to give a sense of context for the flower.

The extreme close ups tended to turn out well after cropping, but the extremely extreme close ups seem to show a little pixelation, revealing the limits of 12 megapixels. Let me know if you agree. I do feel tempted to open copies of the files in a graphic editor and deliberately blurring the pictures, perhaps converting them into “watercolors” just to see the results.

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Pretty psychedelic, aren’t they? But check out this next pair:

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I doubt that this is another specimen of the orchid family, but colors like this belong in this post. Not to mention belong in San Francisco.

Vonn scott Bair