Monthly Archives: October 2014

Haight Street Near Fillmore Street, 29 October 2014, 9:11 – 9:42 p.m.

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Good Evening:

The San Francisco Giants won their third consecutive even-number World Series tonight (2010, 2012, 2014), and the city has not celebrated yet. The scenes at 22nd & Mission, 4th & Market, and near the Giants ballpark have gotten a little exciting, both good and bad exciting, but the intersection of Haight and Fillmore once again managed to walk the fine line between raucous and calm. The police stood around, taking pictures not for evidence but for their collections, and didn’t even do anything when someone set off professional grade fireworks twenty feet away from one of their cars.

Some pictures of the fun and baseball games.

IMG_6473 IMG_6485 IMG_6476 IMG_6484 IMG_6479 DSCN5846 DSCN5851I used both my point-and-shoot and my iPhone 4 and decided not to edit a thing. For those of you living elsewhere I hope these give you a sense of the scene and the crowd tonight. After the street party, I did the same thing any other San Francisco Giants fan did: bought a role of paper towels. Because we’re a wild and crazy bunch here in San Francisco.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Meaningless of Names: Newest Spam Poetry, 28 October 2014

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Good Evening:

Long time readers know of my fondness for taking the nonsense verbiage one finds in scam and spam emails (computer generated and inserted at the ends of such emails to defeat spam blockers), and transform them into poetry. Three more such emails briefly polluted my In Box at work today, and I now present the newest spam poetry masterpiece. But reader beware: this poem possesses such a depth of darkness, misanthropy and bitterness that it might well induce totally incapacitating despair and depression.

Having warned you, let us now proceed:

 

The Meaningless of Names & Futility of Everything

Barbara Agan

Barbara Agan

__________

Mark Gresh

is this a good age for this 17

 

You might wonder why you feel so full of despair and depression. Permit me, in my other role as literary critic, to explain.

The first two lines seem to do nothing but cast a random name onto the page, and they seem to contain no meaning. Well that is exactly what they do, that is exactly correct, and that is exactly the point! This random name, chosen from billions upon billions of possibilities, contains the greatest meaning in its sheer lack of meaning! The sheer lack of meaning in four words forces the reader to confront the sheer lack of meaning in the entire universe!

Which brings the reader to the third line, a line that represents the apotheosis of minimalist poetry. Indeed, what daring poet conceived of the notion of poetry without any words at all! Just a short simple line that divides the first half of the poem from the second half, and indeed introduces a wall that separates “Barbara Agan” from “Mark Gresh,” symbolizing the walls, virtual or real, that separate one human being from another. In the final line of this minimalist epic or epic minimalism, names are discarded entirely; instead we are a number, the number 17. But why 17? Why not 5? Why not 2,841,669? Because no meaning exists in any of these numbers. It doesn’t matter. Indeed, the computer software poet feels so full of despair that it cannot program itself to end its work with the required question mark. Why bother? What’s the point? Everything has no meaning anyway.

So that’s why you feel so full of despair and depression.

Can’t blame me. I warned you.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Egg Salad Sandwich at the End of Western Civilization: An Imaginary Cold War Espionage Thriller (Weekly Photo Challenge: Cover Art)

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Good Evening:

So far, top secret ace MI6 agent Nigel Basil Reginald Thorne-Blackthorne-Black did not like the month of February 1970. Not. At. All.

First, his 1965 racing green MG Midget Mark II had gone into the repair shop–yet again. Then, he had to break up with yet another girlfriend because she had tried to assassinate him–and that was starting to get quite boring. Worst of all, Master had forced him to give away his ticket to The Who’s concert at Leeds University just to fly off to San Francisco for a routine fetch of a routine package at a routine drop. San Francisco! Home of The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and similar dismal bands.

“Given the choice between Her Majesty’s Empire and The Who,” he grumbled at the 4th and Mission Street bus stop, “I’ll take Moon and the lads any day.”

Cover Art for The Egg Salad Sandwich at the End of Western Civilization

Cover Art for The Egg Salad Sandwich at the End of Western Civilization

Safely back at the safe house, Her Majesty’s top secret operative rifled through the contents of the bag. The usual dull dim-witted diplomatic dispatches, but they weren’t what he sought. Thorne-Blackthorne-Black wanted to find a paper lunch bag. Ah, there it is. He emptied the contents onto his table, removed the foil wrapping around the contents, then the clear plastic wrapping.

An egg salad sandwich. But not just any egg salad sandwich, but the The egg salad sandwich. The signal. The signal that the Free World, democracy, Western Civilization, and all that is good and worthy in this world, stood perilously close to falling to the Soviet Union and to Communist tyranny–and The Free World, democracy, Western Civilization, and all that is good and worthy in this world did not even know it.

“Well send me to Blazes,” he muttered. “I have to save the Free World again.”

He nibbled at one corner and smiled. Just the right amount of black pepper. He smiled a bigger smile.

Nigel Basil Reginald Thorne-Blackthorne-Black, legendary MI6 operative, was beginning to like February 1970.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Spectre of Buena Vista: A True Mark Twain Mystery Discovered by Prof. Artemus Carbuncle (Weekly Photo Challenge: Cover Art)

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Good Evening:

Did you know that in his spare time, American literary legend Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain was also an adroit and intrepid amateur sleuth who solved crimes that baffled even the most professional investigators?

Don’t worry, no one else did, either.

Cover for the soon-to-be-published The Spectre of Buena Vista. The graphic designer will add an image of a ghost in the upper right background.

Cover for the soon-to-be-published The Spectre of Buena Vista. The graphic designer will add an image of the spectral figure of a spectre in the middle right background.

However, one Dr. Artemus Carbuncle, Professor of Linguistics and Linguini at the University of Northern South Dakota at Phoole (special virtual no-prize to all readers who spot the musical reference–VSB) claims to have uncovered a trove of papers in a hitherto unknown archive in which Samuel Clemens recorded his stirring successes as an amateur private detective. Professional Clemens researchers remain skeptical–“It seems most unlikely that Mr. Twain would have used official Spongebob Squarepants stationary” represents a typical snotty and envious comment–but Dr. Carbuncle remains undaunted in his efforts to bring this unknown side of Mark Twain to light.

(Ed. Note: Insofar as Twain was the author of the underrated and unfairly neglected Puddin’head Wilson, an early forensic detective novel, it seems highly probable that he possessed a greater knowledge of criminal science in that era than most other Americans.)

Consider the most curious case of the elderly Egbert Hieronymous Cuthbert XII, a fabulously wealthy puritanical right-wing mining magnate and family tyrant preparing his last will and testament. Every time the Spectre appears in the park, another relative who stands to inherit part of the family fortune gets trapped in an awful, embarrassing and yet hilarious scandal that causes Cuthbert to disinherit that individual.

Fearing that he’s next, Cuthbert’s son Egbert Hieronymous Cuthbert XIII enlists the aid of his old school chum Sam Clemens, already visiting San Francisco to enjoy one of the city’s brisk invigorating summers. Can Mark Twain use his unique skills and personality to uncover the connection between the spectre and the awful, embarrassing and yet hilarious scandals that plague the family? Can Mark Twain prevent his friend from getting trapped in another awful, embarrassing and yet hilarious scandal? And what do those anchor symbols drawn on the tree trunks mean?

Find out in The Spectre of Buena Vista. Not coming soon to a non-existent bookstore not near you.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Wrong Alley: A Slapp “Happy” Harder Mystery (Weekly Photo Challenge: Cover Art)

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Good Evening:

Presenting the imaginary cover art for the latest imaginary adventure of the imaginary hard-boiled cynical San Francisco private eye Slapp “Happy” Harder, hero of the latest imaginary detective novel by Dirk Dagger, the imaginary author of The Wrong Holistic Organic Vegan Burger Joint:

The Wrong Alley: A Slapp "Happy" Harder Mystery

The Wrong Alley: A Slapp “Happy” Harder Mystery

Mr. Dagger hopes The Wrong Alley will sell better than his previous book.

Vonn Scott Bair

Nowhere In Particular: An Imaginary Novel of Bohemian San Francisco (Weekly Photo Challenge: Cover Art)

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Good Evening:

Imagine this as the cover art for an imaginary novel about San Francisco bohos struggling to get by as the city changes so rapidly around them.

The Streetcar to Nowhere in Particular

The Streetcar to Nowhere in Particular

Taken with my iPhone 4–yes, that old thing. At first, it seemed that this week’s Cover Art Challenge would prove too difficult, but I spotted this F-Market trolley after attending the theater tonight and now I have a few ideas worth further exploration. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Vonn Scott Bair

Recipe: Stir-Fried Padron Chiles in Lemon and Garlic (Vegan)

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Good Evening:

So what do you do with about 8 ounces of Padron Peppers that you bought on a whim at the farmers market?

Well, first, figure out what they are. My basket of Padrons consisted mostly of .75 – 1.0 inch dark green chiles with a few about 2.5 inches long. Shiny, no spots. They have thin walls, very thin, so I decided to stir fry in very hot olive oil. While they have a white pepper-like character, Padrons tend to be spicy but quite mild. You will occasionally run into a hot one, but those are rare. Overall, Padrons are a very rare guest to the farmers market or the produce section, so I recommend grabbing them when available.

Stir-Fried Padron Chilis in Lemon and Garlic

  • Olive Oil
  • One (1) pint of Padron Chilis, washed and dried very carefully
  • Juice of 1 small lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garlic powder to taste
  1. Heat olive oil (I used 2 Tablespoons) until very hot in a saute pan.
  2. Add the chiles and stir-fry nonstop for 2-3 minutes. Be careful of water spatter if you didn’t dry them well. Like balloons, the chiles will deflate and turn very soft. You might even hear the hissing or squeaking sounds of air escaping their interiors.
  3. Spoon the chiles with the oil into a bowl.
  4. Add the lemon juice, along with lots of salt, pepper and garlic powder; toss the peppers until evenly coated.
  5. Let cool to warm or room temperature.

Once cool enough to touch, my favorite way to eat them consists of using the inedible stems as a sort of toothpick, plucking the peppers into your mouth and discarding the stems whilst mopping up the oil with bread. You can also cut off the stems and use them in sandwiches or burgers. Good as a side to a fish filet.

Vonn Scott Bair

San Francisco Skies, October 2014.

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Good Evening:

In San Francisco, winter represents a sensational opportunity for sky photographs, but recent weeks have featured some wild cloud formations. These shots have received zero edits, and the first one really is full color.

Late Afternoon in San Francisco Looking West to Sutro Tower

Late Afternoon in San Francisco Looking West to Sutro Tower

The next two show a cloud formation sometimes called a “flock of sheep.” Back in my days as an amateur astronomer, I knew the scientific name, but no more. This particular formation covered over 90% of the entire sky over the Civic Center and dozens of people took pictures of the phenomenon. Two of mine:

DSCN5523 DSCN5512Two more miscellaneous shots.

DSCN5539 DSCN5557Vonn Scott Bair

Picture Puzzle for October 2014!

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Good Evening:

Haven’t done one of these in quite some time. If you haven’t seen one of these before, they generally don’t pose more then moderate difficulty: first, an overall picture of the protective window shield of the The Pink Dolphin bar on Haight Street between Ashbury &  Masonic.

DSC_0048Now a series of closeups of the mural.

DSC_0058 DSC_0061 DSC_0054 DSC_0050 DSC_0052 DSC_0055And now your challenge: locate the closeups within the mural as a whole. Probably more entertaining than difficult, but I hope you like it anyway.

Vonn scott Bair

Fog, Mist & Reflections at San Francisco’s Stow Lake (Weekly Photo Challenge: Refraction)

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Good Evening:

Finally had a decent morning fog today! Not one of San Francisco’s heavy duty professional fogs, more like a highly-talented-amateur-hobbyist fog, but still good enough for exploring what happens when light passes through the mist and fog of San Francisco’s Stow Lake near sunrise. If that is refraction (Now might represent an ideal moment for someone to inform me that I have no idea what photographers mean by refraction). Anyway, some of the better pictures, and let’s play around with the Nikon D40’s Cyanotype filter again to mess around with the light even more. All photos unedited.

CSC_0134 CSC_0193 CSC_0201 CSC_0171Plus one more in full color just for fun: the sun had burnt off the mist and fog much earlier than normal for a foggy morning (told you it wasn’t professional grade), but who can resist a semi-natural arch?

DSC_0110Vonn Scott Bair

Consumers & Runners (Weekly Photo Challenge: Refraction)

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Good Evening:

Had a ton of errands downtown today and thought that maybe a few pictures of people reflected in store windows would prove interesting for the Challenge. In reality, almost all of them turned out badly except for this one, and even here the store windows were reflected in the bus windows.

DSCN5594Then blundered into a thick, overflowing crowd in front of the Nike Store at Union Square. Nike will sponsor a women’s half-marathon tomorrow and come up with the idea of printing the names of all registered competitors on its windows. In terms of safety, this wasn’t the best idea, as the crowd sometimes swelled so much that passers-by often had to walk in the streets to get around the runners–and the shopping traffic on a Saturday afternoon comes thick and fast around the Square. Nonetheless, the runners loved the mural and posed next to their names for pictures.

DSCN5596 DSCN5601 DSCN5595 DSCN5603Vonn Scott Bair

Window Reflections (Weekly Photo Challenge: Refraction)

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Good Evening:

I hope I didn’t misunderstand this week’s Challenge, because we approach the time of year when San Francisco skies take a turn for the wild, and their reflections in the windows near the Civic Center today had some impressive effects.

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And one more, a curiosity from Redwood Alley:

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Vonn Scott Bair

MacWorld Expo, RIP.

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Good Evening:

Well, officially the MacWorld folks say the Expo has gone on “hiatus,” but unless Apple reverses Steve Jobs’ decision to stop using the annual exposition of all things Mac as the showcase for the latest products in the company’s portfolio, this seems like the end of a great yearly tradition. For me, the best part of each Expo consisted of reconnecting with online friends for serious face time on the Expo floor and at the nearby Buca di Beppo restaurant.

However, January 1992 remains special. That says a lot, because I was one of the first people to see a demo of the Bondi-Blue iMac. I was also one of the only Americans who saw the iMac G4 with the half-dome base before Apple unveiled it in 2002. 1992 stands out as the first MacWorld Expo I had ever attended. It introduced one absolutely shocking innovation (by 1992 standards): QuickTime. I remember looking at a QuickTime clip, about the size of a large postage stamp in the upper left-hand corner of the monitor, listening to someone confidently tell me that someday very soon all television will come to us via computer.

I imagine that took a bit longer than he expected.

But the most vivid memory involves the other shocking new technology–Adobe Photoshop plugins. Adobe had introduced plugins in 1991, but MacWorld Expo 1992 saw the introduction of a set of plugins by not-yet-computer-graphics-software-legend Kai Krause called Kai’s Power Tools. Every demo at his booth was jammed, and you could not walk past it because too many people filled the aisles.

I only had a mild interest in his demo; when your computer is the original Mac Classic, you ain’t gonna use Photoshop or Kai’s Power Tools any time soon. In fact, I spent as much time glancing at the other spectators as at the demo. Fascinating. So many stunned human beings. Some had bulging eyes. Some had jaws hanging down. Some kept saying “Whoa!” at each effect. Some did all three.

Except the guy standing next to me. He was shaking a little.

Very, very tall, receding hairline, quite slender. I wondered why he reacted differently, especially since–believe it or not–his Expo badge stated that he worked at Adobe.

So why did he seem upset?

Surely Kai’s Power Tools would boost Photoshop sales, much as Enrico Caruso’s records boosted the sales of record players (at least, according to urban legend). If anything, he should have felt delighted with the demonstration, which I must say was a brilliant one.

“Excuse me,” I said. “I notice that you work for Adobe.”

“Yes.”

“You seem upset. What’s the problem? Some kind of copyright violation?”

“N-n-no, n-not at all. It’s Photoshop. That software is doing things that I didn’t know were possible, I never imagined that Photoshop could do what it’s doing. The software has powers I never thought it had.”

I shrugged. “Well, if you ask one of the programmers, I’m sure they won’t be surprised.”

He turned to me, his eyes turned wild, and he said exactly what you think he said.

“I AM one of the programmers.”

Which made it official: the new era predicted in dystopian science fiction had not just arrived, but had firmly planted itself in the world and become accepted, even embraced. I refer to the era of software engineers creating products that have far greater powers than they thought, powers that they didn’t know they had programmed into their software. I’m sure Photoshop was not the first software that had abilities its programmers did not anticipate, with all the potentially disastrous–and beneficial–consequences that might have. But to that Adobe programmer and to me, it seemed like the step forward that you can’t take back.

The step forward to software that will achieve consciousness.

Still seems like fanciful science fiction to me.

But who knows?

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–Standing next to a legend, and it never occurred to me to learn the guy’s name. Sheesh.

Cyanotype Impressions 3: Ocean Beach, San Francisco. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Dreamy)

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Good Evening:

Do oceans dream, and if they do, of what?

The weekend of “dreamy” cyanotype and aperture experiments ended at sunrise on Monday at Ocean Beach near the intersection of Great Highway and Ortega. The first three photographs come in chronological order: just before sunrise; just at sunrise; and sun fully above the horizon.

WordPress 101514 CSC_0092 WordPress 101514 CSC_0112 WordPress 101514 CSC_0131A picture looking north from Ocean Beach of the Marin Headlands.

WordPress 101514 CSC_0115It took awhile, in fact three days, but I finally took a photograph that I really, really like (in other words, 2 stars out of 5 in iPhoto, not 1). Most people don’t photograph the view looking south from Ocean Beach, but your faithful photographer got very, very luck with this shot.

WordPress 101514 CSC_0141_2Thus ends my set of experiments with cyanotypes in response to this week’s Challenge. Based upon the results, my *very* preliminary conclusions consist of these. One, you need bright natural light for the details to come out. Two, overall, plants seem the best subject of cyanotype photography–as Anne Atkins discovered back in the 1840s! Three, the results have a very peaceful feel; cyanotypes might serve as an ideal medium for capturing that specific mood. Definitely recommend that photographers take another look at this 19th Century technique, especially since digital filters in both cameras and software make this so easy.

Vonn Scott Bair

Cyanotype Impressions 2: Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Dreamy)

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Good Evening:

Some more weekend attempts at “dreamy” photography using the Cyanotype filter in my DSLR, aperture experiments, and the morning fog. Would have liked more fog; the effect might have looked even better, but overall fairly satisfactory. Incidentally, aside from using the Cyanotype, have performed no other edits on these shots.

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Vonn Scott Bair