Monthly Archives: November 2014

“la la la.” 30 November 2014

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Good Morning:

Sometimes, when practicing candid or street photography, I aim my point-and-shoot directly behind me and snap away, having absolutely no idea what my camera has captured. Typically, I end up discarding 90-100% of these shots.

This one, taken at Stockton and Market on Friday at 1:21 p.m., looked a little interesting.

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But too dark. So I changed the exposure in iPhoto and lightened it.

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A slight improvement, but it seems we’ll have to return to the era of 1950s black-and-white. So I returned to the original and performed a straightforward conversion.

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Again, too dark, but at least black-and-white proved a good idea. So a bit more fiddling around and fooling around in iPhoto yielded this result:

"la la la"

“la la la” Black Friday, San Francisco, California, 28 November 2014

Funny–I did not take a picture, I photographed potential. True, a photograph that someone like Garry Winogrand would have dismissed as mediocre at best had he taken it, but mediocre Winogrand represents a huge improvement over my usual work. “la la la,” for all its flaws, captures the discomfort, stress and tension of Black Friday shopping; that girl is most definitely not smiling, and look at how her arm is uncomfortably pulled backward by the man (probably her father) who holds her hand presumably to keep her safe.

Incidentally, I had at first created three versions of this picture, but added a fourth after blundering into something called The One Four Challenge. If you like to study both photography and how artists edit their work, the webpage is well worth a visit.

Vonn Scott Bair

Black Friday in San Francisco. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Converge)

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Good Afternoon:

On Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving in America, traditionally the day when retailers start to go from “in the red” for the year to “in the black”), San Franciscans converge upon two blocks of Stockton Street from Market to Geary to snap up Christmas presents and other bargains at the likes of Macy’s, Armani Exchange, Disney, Crate & Barrel, and the Apple Store. As it happens, this year those two blocks have been closed to vehicular traffic because of underground construction on a new subway line. A store owner and/or someone in City Hall had one very good idea…

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…so they laid down artificial turf to create a real park. I visited the area on Friday and Saturday. Friday was bright, sunny, and warm; Saturday, cloudy, rainy, and dark. Or in simple English, Welcome to San Francisco.

I used my point-and-shoot for all of these pictures, and for most used The 30 Shot to capture candids of the people. Because of the weird challenges posed by the ambient light on both days, every picture required heavy editing in iPhoto.

Some visitors enjoyed benches for resting between stores.

Pink Lady, Stockton Near Geary, 28 November 2014, San Francisco, California

Pink Lady, Stockton Near Geary, 28 November 2014, San Francisco, California

Lunching, Resting, Selfing, 29 November 2014, San Francisco, California

Lunching, Resting, Selfing, 29 November 2014, San Francisco, California

Sunbathers Near the Crate & Barrel, San Francisco, California, 28 November 2014

Sunbathers Near the Crate & Barrel, San Francisco, California, 28 November 2014

In Front of the Apple Store, Stockton Near Market, 28 November 2014

In Front of the Apple Store, Stockton Near Market, 28 November 2014

Others preferred using the impromptu park for play.

Scooter, San Francisco, CA 29 November 2014

Scooter, San Francisco, CA 29 November 2014

The Human Basketball Hoop Lets Players Take Their Shots

The Human Basketball Hoop Lets Players Take Their Shots

Small time entrepreneurs plied their wares or talents. I photographed Justin Ward just as he had begun a superb cover of Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me.”

Justin Ward Performing Sam Smiths "Stay With Me," 28 November 2014

Justin Ward Performing Sam Smiths “Stay With Me,” 28 November 2014

Balloon Lady Singing to Her Customers, Union Square, San Francisco, 28 November 2014

Balloon Lady Singing to Her Customers, Union Square, San Francisco, 28 November 2014

Timmy The English Pig Busking Our Way 'Round the U S of A!

Timmy The English Pig Busking Our Way ‘Round the U S of A!

…whilst a few had a political agenda.

Cruelty or Kindness The Choice Is Yours

Cruelty or Kindness The Choice Is Ours

Check out the headdress in the next two shots.

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This is the woman who was sitting in the black and white above as I saw her today.

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At first, I thought he was going to throw up, but in reality he was making a call and charging his cell phone at the same time.

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Of course, the folks who provided a venue for all of this fun, play, and entertainment had an ulterior motive.

Something involving lots of shopping bags:

Uniqlo, Market Street, San Francisco, California, 28 November 2014

Uniqlo, Market Street, San Francisco, California, 28 November 2014

Vonn Scott Bair

Overhead Trolley Wires on Haight Street, 28 November 2014.

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Good Afternoon:

When electric bus lines converge at intersections such as Haight and Divisadero and at Haight and Fillmore, so do the overhead power lines, and the resultant geometry produces all sorts of shapes and angles.

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Vonn Scott Bair

Who Wants to Feel *Real* Old?, 25 November 2014!

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Good Evening:

Male Voice: However, I must point out that women can behave silly, too.

1st Female Voice: Where’s your proof?! What’s your evidence?! Don’t make assertions if you can’t back them up!

2nd Female Voice: No, in his defense I have to say that I did lots of silly things when I was young.

1st Female Voice: That’s doesn’t count! You were young! I did silly things when I was young, too, so that doesn’t count!

Male Voice: You can’t just say that something doesn’t count. Where’s your proof?

1st Female Voice: I’m a woman, I can say whatever I want!

2nd Female Voice: Oh God, that’s just like so gender stereotype.

Male Voice: Can we agree that all young are silly?

2nd Female Voice: Oh God, yes.

1st Female Voice: I refuse to admit that I was ever young!

Don’t you wonder just how old these old people are? So did I, so while these three trailed behind me, I surreptitiously slipped my point-and-shoot out of my right front pants pocket, turned it on, and let it dangle down at the end of my arm. I call this the 30 Shot (and once again, must stress that I did not invent this technique): when you hold your small black compact camera about 30 inches above the ground, not only do you get some interesting angles, your subjects tend not to notice–very useful for street photography.

I pointed the camera behind myself, not even checking where I pointed the lens, and snapped nine pictures. Yes, I did not even look at where I aimed the camera, which explains why I discarded 7 of the 9 shots.

So, before I premiere my latest heavily edited blindly aimed photograph, you have one more chance to guess: how old were these old folks who mocked the young for being so silly?

Polk Street Near Market, San Francisco, CA, 25 November 2014

Polk Street Near Market, San Francisco, CA, 25 November 2014

I doubt that not one of them has reached even his/her 28th birthday.

Doesn’t that make you feel just so old?

Vonn Scott Bair

The Minimally Artistic Art of Instant Minimalist Art: Grey Series, 25 November 2014.

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Good Evening:

Longtime readers know that I occasionally proselytize on behalf of grey, a sadly underrated and under-appreciated color. Perhaps one needs to live in a fog-bound location such as San Francisco to learn to like grey–oh, and I prefer the English spelling to the American “gray” because grey has always looked “greyer” to me.

Some recent minimalist-style picture.

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Vonn Scott Bair

Right Angles, Acute Angles, Rectangles, Triangles. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Angular)

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Good Afternoon:

Definitely a good weekend for construction projects. Walked the 1.5 miles to the Civic Center Farmers Market today and passed some of the city’s newest condos and apartment buildings, seeing right angles, acute angles, rectangles and triangles galore. The first, at Dolores and Market, has not opened yet, which explains the barbed wire. Given the rents here, perhaps some of my fellow San Franciscans would consider the wire symbolic of the prohibitive cost of living here.

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8 Octavia.

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Market & Tenth Streets.

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Not sure what will go up here at Polk & Hayes, and not sure how many construction cranes stand over San Francisco right, but one hundred would not surprise me, not surprise me at all.

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Vonn Scott Bair

Pan-Seared and Roasted Brussel Sprouts in Nutmeg & Ginger.

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Good Evening:

I, too, remember the dark days of Brussel Sprouts. They came frozen in 6 inch x 6 inch x 2 inch white-packaged bricks, boiling them to death was the only known cooking method, and frankly, they tasted faintly of urine. However, in the early 1980s, I worked at the restaurant that might have served as the starting point for their slooooooow comeback to respectability. The Commissary, part of a Philadelphia empire of restaurants owned by Steve Poses, would split them in two vertically, blanche them for 1 minute, immediately shock them in cold water to stop cooking, and then drain them thoroughly. When called for, the second cook would sauce them in butter, top with crumbled bacon and salt and pepper, then serve as a side dish.

The recent trend in Brussel Sprouts seems to consist of oven roasting them whole without blanching. It’s OK, but sometimes the stems are not quite done. This past weekend I had about 12 ounces of sprouts–largely because what the heck, why not?–and thought I night try something slightly different. I knew that freshly grated nutmeg is the secret ingredient to great creamed spinach (weird if you think about it, but it does work); I knew that many Chinese recipes include both cabbage and ginger. So let’s have fun.

Pan-Seared and Roasted Brussel Sprouts in Nutmeg & Ginger

  • 12 ounces Brussel Sprouts, washed, drained on paper towels, stem ends trimmed, split in half vertically.
  • 2 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 0.5 – 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (and it has to be freshly grated)
  • 0.5 – 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Put Brussel Sprout halves in a bowl.
  3. Toss with oil then with salt and pepper. I like to go light on the salt and heavy-ish on the pepper.
  4. Heat saute pan to medium-high. I used a 10-inch cast iron skillet.
  5. Working in batches, place Brussel Sprouts cut side down on the skillet.
  6. Leave untouched for 3 minutes. Check for a nice light to medium brown sear on the cut sides. If you have the sear, transfer cut side up to an ungreased baking sheet.
  7. If too light in color, let sear for 1-2 minutes only, then transfer to sheet.
  8. Bake for 10-15 minutes in the oven. Ten minutes if you like crunchy, fifteen if you prefer a softer texture.
  9. Transfer to a heat-proof serving bowl.
  10. Sprinkle the nutmeg and ginger on the sprouts and stir gently until thoroughly coated with the spice blend. I like strong flavors and went with a teaspoon of each. You might want to start with a half teaspoon of nutmeg and ginger if you prefer mild spice flavors.

Serves four as a side dish.

Some notes: Leaves will fall off. That’s fine; you’ll have something to munch on as you work. More importantly, I cannot stress strongly enough the use of freshly grated nutmeg. The complexity of the aroma and flavors make a big difference.

Vonn Scott Bair

 

 

The “Escher Staircase,” 21 November 2014. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Angular)

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Good Evening:

Methinks that with the burgeoning construction sites and thousands of oddball buildings in San Francisco, seems like a good weekend for architectural studies in response to this week’s Challenge. The wacky main staircase at PUC headquarters seems an obvious choice, but has been photographed so often from so many angles that finding a different one proved a challenge. But with the aid of a little cropping in iPhoto, I found this one today.

The "Escher Staircase" from the 4th Floor, 21 November 2014

The “Escher Staircase” from the 4th Floor, 21 November 2014

This weekend will be a lot of fun.

Vonn Scott Bair

Lovers in the Rain, 19 November 2014.

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Good Evening:

A love so unquenchable that not even the second major storm of the season can dampen it.

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I had the wrong setting on my point-and-shoot, so the shot came out a little blurry. But since we all got wet anyway, why not turn the photo into a watercolor?

Vonn Scott Bair

A Lunch Triptych.

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Good Evening:

I had finished lunch in the 12th floor break room on Monday, and during my walk back to the elevator, spotted this curious pattern of shadow and light in the courtyard of the Federal Building in the 400 block of Golden Gate Avenue. What exactly is that person doing?

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But the reflections in the window don’t work, and I couldn’t get a decent view of the subject, so let’s get a little closer.

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And just a little closer.

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Another business-casual white collar working shmoe like me, enjoying his lunch in the carefully selected afternoon sun.

Vonn Scott Bair

Recent Weddings at San Francisco’s City Hall. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Achievement)

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Good Evening:

Four recent examples of a major achievement in most people’s lives.

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Vonn Scott Bair

Two New Works from Eclair Bandersnatch, Plus Another San Francisco Snippet!

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Good Evening:

So I awaited either the 6-Parnassus or the 71 Haight-Noriega on Friday night, either one would suffice, along with a young couple who took an unusual delight in the usual canoodling (yep, that’s a word) in which young couple take the usual delight. Left them alone, didn’t even take a picture; sometimes I respect other people’s privacy, no matter how public the behavior.

A new sidewalk mural from Eclair Bandersnatch, one of my favorite muralists. Normally depicting individual women and/or lesbian couples, this construction worker represents a major departure.

A new sidewalk mural from Eclair Bandersnatch, one of my favorite muralists. Normally depicting individual women and/or lesbian couples, this construction worker represents a major departure.

Then the young lady broke off the contact with her gentleman, saying, “Hold on, that’s my ringtone for my mom.”

She checked her cell phone. “Just a text.”

Then she read it.

A Hallowe'en theme from E. B. I haven't seen all of his/her/their work, so I cannot say definitively that this represents his/her/their first Hallowe'en stencil, but I can't recall seeing another holiday-themed project before.

A Hallowe’en theme from E. B. I haven’t seen all of his/her/their work, so I cannot say definitively that this represents his/her/their first Hallowe’en stencil, but I can’t recall seeing another holiday-themed project before.

She put away her phone, rolled her eyes, and shook her head.

“That was my mom. She texted me. She thinks I should get a nose job.”

They looked at each other, deadpan. Then resumed canoodling.

Vonn Scott Bair

 

SF Giants 2014 Victory Celebration (Weekly Photo Challenge: Achievement)

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Good Evening:

An orange-and-black team celebrating a World Series title on Hallowe’en, the orange-and-black holiday, in the city that loves to party? Even with the sky opening up and letting down the first big rain of 2014? Will anyone show up in that sort of weather.

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Oh. yeah. No problem.

In some respects, the San Francisco Giants’ 2014 title represents their most surprising achievement. Although their fans have grown accustomed to winning it all only on even-numbered years (and is it premature to congratulate the St. Louis Cardinals for their 2015 NL pennant?), the Giants didn’t suffer such theoretically catastrophic injuries and losses of production during 2010 and 2012. Indeed, injuries ruined the odd-numbered seasons of 2011 and 2013.

This year, the G-Men lost their best pitcher Matt Cain to injury (seriously, going into 2014 he was the ace, not Madison Bumgarner), lost a key position player in Angel Pagan to injuries, plus closer Sergio Romo and starter Tim Lincecum had down seasons, and the team limped into the postseason with only 88 wins as the fifth and final National League playoff team. Not even a division champion.

So what happened? Well, not just Bumgarner, no disrespect intended to the man who turned in the best Giants pitching in the World Series since Christy Mathewson in 1905. Guys like the rookies Joe Panik and Andrew Susac happened, not to mention Travis Ishikawa, who spent part of the year in the minors thinking of retiring and ended up hitting one of the greatest postseason homers in team history, sending San Francisco into the World Series. But I keep wondering why no one has figured out that middle reliever Jeremy Affeldt has played a critical role in all three championship years. He has mediocre at best stats–actually, a 41-44 record and 3.89 ERA is kinda bad–but in 2010, 2012 and 2014 he has come in during critical moments and completely shut down the opposition. This year, not too many people seem to have noticed, but Affeldt won both the last game of the National League Championship Series and Game 7 of the World Series. Also quite an achievement.

But why can’t they win in odd-numbered years? After all, they represent San Francisco; we’re good with odd.

Vonn Scott Bair

100 Walks. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Achievement)

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Good Evening:

I just don’t selfie very well. Pity. But here I am on the top floor at work.

#100.

#100.

The colorful sheet of paper is the real star of the picture. Those dates represent each time I performed the Stair Walk, which consisted of walking from my floor to the 14th and top floor, then all the way back down to the ground floor, and finally back up to my floor. By doing the Stair Walk 100 times (note that each square in the 20-square grid has five dates), I qualified for a baby back rib luncheon organized by a co-worker who started walking the stairs as part of a commitment by him to get into shape.

He’s lost about 50 pounds and stunned a lot of people in the process.

About 5-10 of us have continued walking the stairs at least once a day. I’ve taken to taking weights with me and working with them to build tone in the upper body. Nothing spectacular, of course–five pound weights, spectacular?–but my co-workers insist I’ve lost maybe ten pounds. Which seems impossible, given my caloric intake, but perhaps I’ve redistributed the weight a little bit.

And I will soon upgrade to 10-pounders. The fives simply feel much too light anymore.

Which I suppose counts as an achievement.

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–That blue & white thing in my pocket? That is the official WordPress cell phone protector for my iPhone 4. Now that you can envy.